Indiana University won’t take down a panel from a campus mural that includes imagery of the Ku Klux Klan. The College Fix reports that a change.org petition sponsored by a former student is demanding that the painting be banished from Woodburn Hall, which is routinely used for class lectures.
There are 22 segments to the mural that was painted by Thomas Hart Benton. The one featuring the Klan shows members in their white hoods burning a cross.
The petition has attracted more than 1,100 signatures, but the university says that won’t affect its decision to keep the mural as-is.
“We currently have no plans to remove or move the mural,” Indiana University spokesman Ryan Piurek informed The College Fix via email Thursday.
The university isn’t balking at the petition because of any sympathy of the KKK but because it believes the past should be depicted as it was and not as we would leave it today, even if that imagery shows “an unsavoury and criminal portion of of Indiana’s history.”
Yale University plans to remove a statue of a Puritan settler standing with a Native American because the European is armed and the Native is not; some have labeled the work “colonial violence.”
The Indiana University mural, which depicts history, is historic itself. It was commissioned for the 1933 Chicago world’s fair and was moved to Indiana in 1941. The goal of the artist was to “show all aspects” of Indiana’s past, according to a 2012 educational video produced by the university.
The university is standing by that objective today: “Through much discussion, analysis and reflection over many years, Indiana University has consistently concluded that education is the best response to concerns over the Benton Murals.”
But Jacquline Barrie, who is driving the petition to remove the panel, does not agree with that conclusion.
Barrie suggests in her petition that the mural contravenes the university’s position on diversity and “violates the student rights and code of ethics.” Furthermore, she says that the picture creates “an environment that promotes a group known for discriminating against people of color.”
Barrie, who is so concerned with the mural now that she has graduated, admits in an email to The College Fix that she didn’t even notice the Klan imagery when she was a student there.
But she was “really bothered by the fact that the controversy surrounding it has gone somewhat unnoticed by the majority of students, myself included.”
Barrie is also a vocal opponent of Confederate monuments and says “the events at Charlottesville have shown us what can happen on a college campus where hidden white supremacy exists.”