An Inclusive Litany

2/20/02

Students at Indiana University are leading an effort to remove a mural by Thomas Hart Benton from a room used to hold classes. The mural, commissioned by the governor of Indiana and exhibited at the 1933 Chicago World Fair, depicts various episodes in Indiana history. The offending panel depicts a particularly sordid period in which the Ku Klux Klan wielded enormous political control over Indiana a decade before the mural was commissioned. Klan members are depicted as agents of darkness and terror, burning a cross in front of a church. Despite the artist's clear expression of revulsion at what the Klan represented, many of the mural's critics found the issue immaterial, since some students found the image disturbing. "The University's mission is to educate," wrote one student, "and perhaps this controversial artwork is educational. But education shouldn't come at the expense of someone's feelings."

[Ed.: While IU administrators did not move the mural, they did require anybody who might use the room to view a half-hour diversity video followed by a discussion in which participants break out into groups.]

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