Chancellor leaves many initiatives on table

Sharon Brehm's days as chancellor are coming to an end, but the IU

community will likely feel her presence for years to come.

Brehm began many initiatives in her two-and-a-half year tenure as IU-B

chancellor, addressing diversity concerns on campus after the Benton

Mural controversy and leading a fiscal program for the University.

Dean of the School of Education Gerardo Gonzalez said Brehm's commitment

to IU was beneficial.

"Brehm has been nothing but a friend to the deans," Gonzalez said. "She

has spearheaded some important initiatives which have benefited the campus."

Dean of Students Richard McKaig said Brehm's influence will not fade any

time soon.

"Those (ideas) that worked typically get entranced with the fabric of

the University," McKaig said. "Just because she is departing doesn't mean

these ideas will go away."

Brehm is perhaps most noted for her decision regarding the Benton Mural

controversy, which centered around a mural in Woodburn Hall Room 100

depicting members of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some student leaders said they felt uncomfortable sitting in a classroom

with the mural in such plain view. Others disagreed on the basis that the

mural was necessary to remind Indiana of its past.

Brehm decided the mural must remain in order to maintain its integrity

as well as IU's commitment to diversity awareness. But the decision did not

satisfy all involved.

Brehm instituted a mural education program to inform all incoming

freshmen of the mural's historical connotations. She also mandated that professors teaching in Woodburn 100 invite a trained team to discuss the mural with their classes.

But Brehm's verdict on the murals was only part of her campaign to

promote diversity at IU.

Soon after the controversy, she allocated $800,000 to help finance IU’s

Strategic Hiring Initiative, which aims to boost the number of minorities and

females among faculty ranks.

Brehm simultaneously established the "One for Diversity" fund, which

promotes multicultural art around campus. Brehm delivered her recent "State of Diversity" address at a rally for "One for Diversity" last week.

"Persistence is obviously needed," Brehm said in her address. "In fact,

we need to be quite stubborn in our determination to create a more welcoming

campus that will be attractive to individuals from a wide range of ethnic


Aside from developing diversity, Brehm fronted the effort to allocate

cash flow from the $1,000 fee assessed to this year's incoming freshmen toward

hiring new professors.

The Commitment to Excellence Program, formed to raise money to combat

dwindling Indiana state funding, took on the massive task of distributing

financial aid to academic departments.

"I think it was very visionary to create this committee," said Fred H.

Cate, chair of the Strategic Planning Commitee and professor of law. "She has

provided great suport to the commitee but has also given it enormous

freedom to do its work. This (committee) has been remarkable in how thouroughly she's lived up to its promises."

In addition to the numerous programs she instituted, Brehm was renowned

for her dedication to students.

"She always tried to get out and see students and try to be accessible

to them," Dean of the Faculties Moya Andrews said. "In the early days, if

you sent her an e-mail at two in the morning, you'd get a response at 4 a.m."

Gloria Gibson, associate vice chancellor for multicultural affairs, said she appreciated Brehm's tolerance for new ideas.

"I have found her to be very open-minded, to be very willing to listen

to suggestions of others," Gibson said.

Aside from these contributions, Brehm’s vision for IU included smaller

changes, including a 30-foot ban on smoking around campus buildings and

renovations made

to the Wells House.

Contact staff writer Mike McElroy at

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.


Comments powered by Disqus