Indiana Daily Student

IU Board of Trustees votes to rename sites honoring David Starr Jordan

<p>Water flows between rocks Sept. 24 in the Jordan River. The IU Board of Trustees voted 8-1 Friday to rename the sites on IU-Bloomington’s campus honoring former IU president David Starr Jordan.</p>

Water flows between rocks Sept. 24 in the Jordan River. The IU Board of Trustees voted 8-1 Friday to rename the sites on IU-Bloomington’s campus honoring former IU president David Starr Jordan.

The IU Board of Trustees voted 8-1 Friday to rename the sites on IU-Bloomington’s campus honoring former IU president David Starr Jordan.

The places the board voted to rename include Jordan Hall, Jordan Parking Garage, Jordan River and a section of North Jordan Avenue. The sites will be renamed Biology Building, East Parking Garage and Campus River, respectively, with no new name suggested for North Jordan Avenue. 

These names are administrative and President Michael McRobbie recommended the board waits to assign honorary names until next year.

“I think removing a name is something that needs to be done with great thought and deliberation in an atmosphere of calm and with adequate time,” McRobbie said. “I’d like to think the process we put in place here is really an exemplar of how to do something like this in the future.” 

McRobbie requested the review of these honorarily named sites in June in response to students and officials who called for the change, McRobbie said in the meeting.

He specifically cited a letter from faculty in the biology department and student petitions.

McRobbie and the IU community began to question if Jordan shared the views and values of IU, he said. 

In response, McRobbie created the Committee to Review Namings in Honor of IU's Seventh President David Starr Jordan. The committee was co-chaired by Karen Bravo, dean and professor of the IU McKinney School of Law and Austen Parish, dean and professor of the IU Maurer School of Law. The committee included four other senior IU staff members from the arts, sciences and education disciplines. 

While at IU, Jordan was a renowned ichthyologist, a type of zoologist devoted to the study of fish. However, after he left IU in 1891 he became a heavily involved member of the American eugenics movement, McRobbie said during the meeting. Jordan specifically promoted a type of eugenics called negative eugenics, which involved proposed marriage laws, forced sterilization practices and immigration controls. Jordan also wrote extensively on this subject, naming those of certain races unworthy and unreliable, McRobbie said. 

“He was enormously influential in this movement,” McRobbie said. “One scholar who advised the review committee suggested that Jordan may have been among the top 20 most influential global leaders of this movement.” 

Jordan was a founding member and trustee of the Human Betterment Foundation, an organization devoted to the promotion of forced sterilization legislation. The committee discovered this during their research and reported their findings back to McRobbie and the board in a report published in September. 

The committee concluded in their report that Jordan was not heavily involved in the eugenics movement while at IU, nor was there evidence those who approved the original namings considered his connections to the eugenics movement.

The committee reported continuing to honor him with these sites would counter IU’s long-standing values and core missions, Bravo said during the meeting. 

While McRobbie and the committee recommended Jordan’s honorific namings be removed, they stressed the importance of not erasing Jordan’s work or contributions to the university and the academic community as a whole. The committee's report suggested Jordan’s involvement at IU still be acknowledged, possibly with lectures, a university course, public installation or a periodic public event. 

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