BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana University plans to review the names of all buildings and structures across its nine-campus system following the school’s decision to rename an intramural center that once honored a segregationist after its first black basketball player.
IU President Michael McRobbie announced the planned review after the school’s trustees unanimously approved a resolution last week to name the Bloomington campus' intramural center after Bill Garrett, who broke the color barrier in Big Ten basketball when he made his varsity debut in 1948.
Garrett, who went on to play for the Harlem Globetrotters, died in 1974.
The intramural center was once named after Ora Wildermuth, a former IU trustee and Lake County judge who opposed racial integration and made comments about race that McRobbie called deplorable.
He said during a June 12 virtual meeting of the school’s trustees that IU's naming committee will review all named buildings and structures on IU campuses to determine if they should remain. McRobbie said there are hundreds of names on structures at IU’s campuses and evaluating them will be a slow and deliberate process.
The review comes amid a nationwide movement to get rid of Confederate monuments and other racially offensive symbols. McRobbie said “recent events in our country” had demonstrated that the nation's legacy of racial discrimination “can be perpetuated through those we choose to honor, in our public art, our icons, and the names we put on buildings."
“We cannot, in any way, be part of perpetuating this legacy," he added.
Trustee Patrick Shoulders, who in 2018 had cast the lone dissenting vote against removing Wildermuth’s name from the intramural building, voiced support for the school’s system-wide names review. But he said that throughout the country, leaders who believed and did things now considered abhorrent are still honored, citing the ownership of slaves by America’s founding fathers as an example.
“I see these as complicated issues,” Shoulders said. “And I want us to be consistent.”
In announcing the names review, McRobbie singled out David Starr Jordan, who was IU’s president from 1884 to 1891 and has a building on Bloomington campus, Jordan Hall, named after him, which houses IU’s biology department and its greenhouse.
Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, the practice of controlled selective breeding of humans often carried out through forced sterilization. He wrote in “The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races through the Survival of the Unfit,” of his belief that humanity would thrive only if the fittest were promoted and blamed the downfall of past civilizations on the corruption of that process.
Jordan, who later became the first president of Stanford University and died in 1931, has numerous other locations on the Bloomington campus named after him, including a major thoroughfare and a creek that runs through the campus.