Indiana University’s Bloomington Faculty Council passed a resolution this week supporting plans to stop holding classes in a Woodburn Hall lecture hall, which displays a controversial portion of the Benton Murals. One of the scenes depicts the Ku Klux Klan burning a cross.
IU Provost Lauren Robel announced in September the room would no longer be used for classes.
The 68-member council supported that decision with its vote this week, which stipulates the room will be repurposed into a gallery and public lecture space that’s more conducive to teaching people about the mural. The resolution says faculty also understands students’ discomfort about the mural.
Chair of the Department of Mathematics and Parliamentarian for the Bloomington Faculty Elizabeth Housworth says students were not the only ones bothered by the mural.
“It was a distraction and not only was it a distraction to the students, it was a distraction sometimes to the professors,”Housworth says. “In my own department I have instructors teaching in that room who come from foreign countries with oppressive regimes. The murals to them were disturbing because they brought up memories of reports of torture in their own countries.”
She says the faculty resented teaching classes in the classroom without ever addressing the social context of the mural. However, she says it’s not the professors’ responsibilities.
Housworth says changing the use of the room will give people the chance to learn about history from knowledgeable people.
“The room is going to be repurposed so that among other things, area school children can come and view the mural,” she says. “Since it was a classroom, it was in use all the time.”
IU plans on discontinuing classes in the lecture hall beginning in the spring semester of 2018.