U-Va. Provost John D. Simon wrote in a statement to the group, obtained by The Washington Post, that neither he nor U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan agreed with Jones’s comments.
“His comments were of his own volition, he was not speaking on behalf of U.Va., and he has since issued a public apology,” Simon wrote. “As administrators, we are often called upon to condemn opinions different from our own. At a university, however, freedom of expression is fundamental to our mission.”
While some of those who signed the letter said they appreciated Simon’s swift and honest response, others said it was not enough and called again upon administrators to publicly address the incident. So far, there has been no university-wide statement addressing Jones’s comments at the symposium hosted by the U-Va. McIntire School of Commerce and the Contemplative Sciences Center, which was started last year with a $12 million gift from Jones.
“This is a pretty extreme example of university officials being afraid to speak out because they don’t want to upset a major donor,” said one professor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she feared it could hurt her career. “This is the price that a university pays for being beholden to a major donor. And it hurts.”
Jones is a 1976 U-Va. graduate who built fortune and fame as a trader in the 1980s. Now a billionaire, Jones has donated more than $100 million to U-Va. and started the Robin Hood Foundation, which aims to end poverty in New York.
Jones’s comments came during a question-and-answer session, when an audience member submitted a question that pointed out that the panel featured only rich, white men and asked what it would take to get more diversity on the panel.
In an answer that lasted more than five minutes, Jones said that female traders are just as capable as male traders, but he believes they lose their focus once they become mothers. He gave the example of two women who worked with him in the late 1970s — then got married, had children and, according to his account, lost the focus needed to be successful traders.
“As soon as that baby’s lips touched that girl’s bosom, forget it,” Jones said.
In late May, U-Va. officials released a video of Jones’s lengthy remarks to The Post in response to a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request. His comments about mothers in his field of global macro trading quickly drew criticism from fellow traders, members of the media and others.
Upon release of the video, Jones issued a statement that said, in part: “Macro trading requires a high degree of skill, focus and repetition. . . . Life events, such as birth, divorce, death of a loved one and other emotional highs and lows are obstacles to success in this specific field of finance.” A day later, he reissued that statement, adding the words “but pass with time” to the end of the last sentence. He also apologized to those who were offended by what he said.
“Yes, Jones has apologized for these comments,” said Denise Walsh, an associate professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and Women, Gender & Sexuality. “The larger point is that this incident created an opportunity not only for our university to make a public statement underscoring its commitment to women’s advancement in all career fields, but to take action demonstrating that commitment.”