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Opening Arguments

The name game

The Indiana Daily Student has a front-page opinion piece calling for the name of a building on the IU campus to be changed because the man it was named after had views that would not be considered mainstream today:

I bet you've passed it a few hundred times, maybe more.

It is a sign, small and simple. White words wrap around a dull maroon rectangle with the declaration: Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center.

This sign, which stands outside of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation building, represents the man, and the man represents the institution.

So who is the man?

One thing Judge Ora Leonard Wildermuth advocated would have made George Wallace proud. For Wildermuth, it was segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever. He put it in his own words on Nov. 19, 1945, in a letter to IU comptroller Ward G. Biddle. Wildermuth, then-president of the IU board of trustees, wrote, “I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the white. I belong to the white race and shall remain loyal to it. It always has been the dominant and leading race.”

A lot of people in our past held views we would find objectionable today, and a lot of buildings and other infrastructure are named for them. We might even be embarassed by some of the names on institutions in Fort Wayne. If we've gotten so far in solving our real problems that we can get all worked up over symbolism, I guess that's a good thing. Oh, wait. We haven't.

Posted in: Hoosier lore


Thu, 04/12/2007 - 3:10am

Oh, I don't know if this retrospective-judgement idea is such a bad one. I wouldn't mind seeing Lincoln's name scrubbed off a whole lot of stuff.