McRobbie to review Wildermuth recommendation



University officials gave another recommendation to IU President Michael McRobbie on Sunday regarding the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center, which is named after a segregationist.

But the recommendation cannot be made public until it is reviewed by McRobbie, said Terry Clapacs, Head of the All University Committee on Name and Vice President and Chief Administrative officer.

Clapacs was unable to say how long the recommendation would take to be reviewed and revealed, in part because people are "scattered" for the holidays.

The name of the intramural center came under fire when Indiana Daily Student columnist Andrew Shaffer questioned the suitability naming the gym after Wildermuth about a year and a half ago.

In an article, Shaffer cited a letter Wildermuth wrote to former IU President Herman B Wells as well as a letter Wildermuth wrote to former IU comptroller Ward G. Biddle. In those letters Wildermuth voiced his disdain for integration.

Wildermuth was a founding citizen of Gary, a judge, a school teacher, and helped raise a substantial amount of money for IU, including money for the gym that bears his name. He served as IU trustee from 1925 to 1952 and as head of the trustees from 1938 to 1949.

In late October, the committee recommended changing the gym's name to the William L. Garrett/Ora L. Wildermuth Fieldhouse.

Garrett was IU's first black basketball player at a time when black players were barred from the Big Ten by a tacit "gentlemen's agreement." After Garrett broke down barrier the agreement raised, coaches around the country began to recruit black players.

Garrett played home games in the gym from 1948 to 1951.  

The committee also suggested placing a plaque and instituting an annual lecture series and conference on what prompted the name change. University officials said they hoped it would help make the juxtaposition of the two names a teaching opportunity.

The recommendation to join the two names was tabled during a November trustee's facilities committee meeting. Trustee Patrick Shoulders suggested naming the Student Recreational Sports Center after Garrett and leaving Wildermuth's name on the center.

This sent the deliberations back to the All University Committee on Names.

In an October interview, Clapacs said it is difficult to take someone's name off a building. He said it could set a precedent which would politicize the naming process and cover IU's history. At the time, Clapacs warned against rushing into a recommendation.

Clapacs also said then that it is hard to take what was said 50 years ago and judge it by today's standards.

The trustees meet next in February.

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