Studying Slavery at the University of Virginia

The Virginia public university founded by Thomas Jefferson has announced that it has appointed a commission to study the history of slavery at the institution.  Here is a taste of an article on the subject in UVA Today:

Investigating and commemorating a major part of the University of Virginia’s past will be the focus of U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan’s newly established Commission on Slavery and the University. 

The commission, comprising 27 U.Va. faculty and staff members, students, alumni and local residents, will further the efforts of multiple groups exploring U.Va.’s historical relationship with slavery and provide an institutional framework to guide research and gather resources on the contributions of enslaved laborers to the University. 

“The commission builds on the effort of many members of our University community who have worked to raise awareness of the University’s relationship with slavery and to commemorate the role of enslaved persons in appropriate ways,” Sullivan said. “The commission will now carry this work forward with the help of community partners who share our concern about this issue.” 

Her specific charge to the commission is to “provide advice and recommendations on the commemoration of the University of Virginia’s historical relationship with slavery and enslaved people.”

Led by co-chairs Dr. Marcus Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity, and Kirt Von Daacke, associate professor of history in the College of Arts & Sciences, the group will investigate the interpretation of historically significant buildings and sites on Grounds related to slavery and propose projects that would educate students, faculty, staff and visitors about enslaved individuals who worked at U.Va., as well as commemorate their work.

Read the rest here.

Protecting the Freshmen

At Messiah College we take care of our first-year students. We thus find this advice from a Leipzig University statute from the year 1495 to be very useful today as we welcome close to 700 newbies to campus:

Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation.

via Ask the Past 

Messiah College first-year students are introduced to the Yellow Breeches Creek

Franklin, Whitefield, and the University of Pennsylvania

Over at The Anxious Bench, Thomas Kidd reminds us of the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and George Whitefield.  The two giants of the eighteenth century worked together in establishing the academy that would eventually become the University of Pennsylvania.  Here is a taste:

One of the most fascinating exchanges between them came in 1750, when Whitefield replied to Franklin’s plans for the Philadelphia Academy, the forerunner to the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin and the academy trustees had recently acquired the “New Building,” a spacious venue which Whitefield’s supporters had originally erected for the itinerant’s preaching. Now Franklin sent Whitefield a copy of his Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania (1749), which made a powerful case for liberal arts education in a time when the colonies still only had four colleges (Harvard, Yale, the College of New Jersey, and William and Mary), and Philadelphia had none. Whitefield was delighted with the plan, and happy to have the New Building put to such a use (especially if it remained available for preaching).

The main problem Whitefield had with Franklin’s proposals – a problem that reflected the fundamental spiritual divide between the men – was that Christianity seemed to be an afterthought. Franklin did note that students would receive instruction in the value of public and private religion, “and the excellency of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION above all others.” But this brief reference came only on page 22 of a 32 page document, and to Whitefield, this was not enough. In the excerpts below from the itinerant’s lengthy letter to Franklin in February 1750, Whitefield cast his own vision for Christian liberal arts education. But Franklin was more concerned with nonsectarianism than evangelicalism, and his vision ultimately won out, making Penn America’s first university with no denominational commitment.

In addition to their work together on the University of Pennsylvania, Franklin and Whitefield also envisioned the establishment of a colony in Ohio Territory.

I am looking forward to Kidd’s forthcoming biography of George Whitefield.