BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A longtime piece of artwork at IU is now at the center of controversy, leading to hundreds of students calling for school officials to take it down.
The painting is part of a 22-panel mural inside of Woodburn Hall on the Bloomington campus. The panel depicts Klansmen burning a cross.
A petition circulating on Change.org states:
“The student Right to Freedom from Discrimination states: Students have the right to study, work, and interact in an environment that is free from discrimination in violation of law or university policy by any member of the university community. Students at Indiana University are expected to respect the rights and dignity of other students, faculty, and staff.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the petition had garnered the support of more than 1,000 people. It was started by a former IU student who says she was alerted to the mural through a Facebook post. In a statement, Jacquline Bassie said:
“In a time where we are witnessing hate crimes on college campuses I think now more than ever the university has a responsibility to take action to relocate it to send a stronger message of diversity and inclusion…”
Recently, the movement to remove statues or artworks depicting confederate or racially divisive images has strengthened across the country. However, officials at IU say unlike those examples, the mural wasn’t done in celebration of the Klan. Instead, officials maintain the purpose of the mural is as an educational tool.
In a statement, Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs and Presidential Communications Ryan Piurek said in part:
“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. We believe that students gain the most if they are well informed about the murals, which serve as a reminder and testimonial to an unsavory and criminal portion of Indiana’s history. Their presence helps insure history will be not repeated. Indeed, Benton chose to highlight this chapter of the state's history precisely because it was ugly history.”
The statement also read that the university will provide support and resources for students and staff impacted by the mural through its Division of Student Affairs, and Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs.