Provost says room in Woodburn Hall with Benton Mural panel will not be used for classes beginning spring semester


Students wait for class to begin in Woodburn 100. The lecture hall contains a mural created by Thomas Hart Benton in 1933, which has created controversy for its depiction of hooded Ku Klux Klan members in its background.  Emily Eckelbarger

Woodburn Hall 100, the classroom which contains a controversial panel from a larger mural by Thomas Hart Benton, will no longer be used for classes starting next spring, according to a Friday email sent by Provost Lauren Robel to the IU-Bloomington community.

The panel in question features Ku Klux Klan members burning a cross in the background. The Benton Murals were commissioned for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and were supposed to show the history of Indiana. On Thursday night students, faculty and community members debated the mural's role. 

Robel gave a brief history of the mural and how its sparked controversy periodically over the years before explaining why moving the mural itself wouldn't be possible.

"Benton painted them using egg tempera paint, which has become extremely fragile over time," Robel said in her email. "Moreover, the space in Woodburn 100 was designed specifically to house the two panels that now hang there, and they were installed in such a way that moving them would almost certainly cause irreparable damage."

Robel said covering the murals felt like censorship, but there was nothing too valuable about holding classes in the room. 

Jesse Naranjo

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