BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – At the Oct. 2 Indiana University Board of Trustees meeting, IU President Michael A. McRobbie will recommend that the name of the university’s seventh president, David Starr Jordan, be removed from a number of structures and spaces on the IU Bloomington campus. Jordan served as IU’s president from 1885 to 1891 and professor of zoology from 1875 to 1885.
McRobbie will support the recommendations from the Jordan Committee that he tasked over the summer with evaluating all spaces named for Jordan, in light of the leading and prominent role Jordan played in the eugenics movement nationally and worldwide. Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices aimed at improving society and the genetics of the population through selective breeding.
McRobbie made this announcement Sept. 24 when releasing the committee’s 60-page report. His recommendations, which are in line with those of the report, will include:
Renaming Jordan Hall as the Biology Building.
Renaming the Jordan Avenue Parking Garage as the East Parking Garage.
Renaming the Jordan River as Campus River.
Honorific namings for each of these may be proposed in the future.
Additionally, McRobbie will refer the renaming of Jordan Avenue to IU’s University Naming Committee to work with the city of Bloomington to find a single name for a thoroughfare that is owned in part by the university and in part by the city.
“As the Jordan Committee’s exhaustive report indicates, David Starr Jordan was a complex and complicated figure, who was influential in higher education and at IU, where he was a highly accomplished and forward-looking president,” McRobbie said. “But he was also at the forefront of the American eugenics movement, and some of the beliefs he espoused in his writings, especially those concerning people he regarded as unworthy or undesirable, make for extremely troubling reading.
“While Jordan’s leadership in eugenics did not begin in a major way until after he left IU, and while the committee found no evidence to suggest that those who approved the original Jordan namings considered his connections to eugenics in deciding whether to honor him, it is nevertheless abundantly clear that to continue to honor Jordan with these namings would run counter to IU’s longstanding values and core missions. These include an unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, fairness and inclusion; to ensuring all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect; and to educating students to live, learn and succeed in an increasingly interconnected global environment.
“It is also clear that continuing to use the Jordan name in honorific namings risks IU being viewed as mistakenly celebrating his advocacy of eugenics, a field that is entirely at odds with IU’s longstanding belief in higher education as a means for personal growth and transformation.”
As part of its assessment, members of the committee considered an extensive range of historical materials related to Jordan, including his research and writings as well as records related to the Bloomington campus namings. It also reviewed emails, letters, petitions and other materials submitted by students, faculty, alumni and other members of the IU community. These materials included a letter signed by nearly every member of the Department of Biology in IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, requesting IU remove Jordan’s name from the building presently known as Jordan Hall.
Though it concluded the university should not celebrate Jordan with honorific namings, the committee also recommended that the university continue to acknowledge his time as a professor and as IU president. It also recommended that IU continue to study eugenics thinking – and the racism and ableism associated with it – to find parallels in contemporary practices.
The Jordan Committee consisted of six distinguished senior IU faculty members. It was co-chaired by Karen Bravo, dean and professor of law at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law at IUPUI, and Austen Parrish, dean and James H. Rudy Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington.
In July, McRobbie asked the IU Bloomington provost and IU campus chancellors to begin a systematic review of all named buildings and structures on all IU campuses. The goal is to identify any buildings or structures named after a person found to have held views – in statements, writings or publicly – that are inimical to the fundamental values of the university and consider removing the present names. This process will be carried out by campus naming review committees that have now all been established on each campus.