The University of Virginia president is defending her use of Thomas Jefferson quotations after a group of students and professors criticized her, saying Jefferson shouldn't be used as a "moral compass" because he was a slave owner.

News outlets report that school president Teresa Sullivan quoted Jefferson in statements made to the campus community before and after Donald Trump's election.

In response, a letter signed by more than 400 faculty members and students said using quotes from the school's founder "undermines the messages of unity, equality, civility, and inclusivity" that Sullivan was trying to convey.

Sullivan wrote Monday that she supports their right to express their opinions and that quoting Jefferson doesn't imply she agrees with all of his actions, beliefs or politics.