IU will not take down the controversial Benton Mural panel
But classes will no longer be taught in Woodburn Hall 100
Putting the heated debate over the controversial Benton Mural panel in Woodburn Hall 100 to rest, Provost Lauren Robol sent out an email to Indiana University on Friday morning announcing the room would no longer be used for class starting in the spring.
The panel that struck a chord among the student body, called "Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press,” features Klu Klux Klan members burning a cross. Although the mural was intended to expose the Klan's corruption and celebrate their defeat by the press, many people who see the work of art interpret it as hateful.
At the beginning of the fall semester, IU alum Jacquline Barrie created a petition calling for the mural to be taken down. Nearly 1,600 people signed the petition, and although the murals cannot be taken down because they were made from egg tempera paint and are extremely fragile, Barrie is pleased with the university's decision.
"For decades the university has chosen to honor the mural and disregard the feelings of its community. Today I truly feel they chose a new and different path and stood by the students and faculty of IU. Racism in Indiana still exists but this is a step in the right direction and sends a clear message that it will not be tolerated at IU," Barrie told The Tab.
Before landing on the latest decision, the university considered having professors in the classroom educate students on the murals. The idea was nixed when considering that not everyone is equipped to lecture on the historical art piece, some teachers don't want to take up class time on subject unrelated to the course, and students might become frustrated with repeated lectures.
Even if the Benton Mural panel is contextualized, it can still frustrate students.
"For some of our students, the burning cross is a symbol of terror that has haunted their families for generations. For others, the robed Klansman has figured in personal family or community tragedies and anguish," Robol wrote.
Woodburn 100 will now serve as an art gallery and lecture hall which is more conducive to studying the "national treasure." Robol said the university's mission is to "teach students to think critically and deeply about the world, and great art is an important route to that end."
In a poll conducted by The Tab, 60 percent of voters believed the Benton Mural panel should not be removed from Woodburn Hall.
"The art is preserved, the students and staff have an inclusive and safe working and learning space, and the mural can now truly be used as an educational tool and preservation of history," Barrie said.