Indiana University has 'no plans' to pull mural of Ku Klux Klan members, burning cross

Indiana University has “no plans” to take down a lecture hall mural featuring Ku Klux Klan members and a burning cross, despite a petition to have it removed that garnered more than 1,100 signatures.

“We currently have no plans to remove or move the mural,” Indiana University spokesman Ryan Piurek said in an email Thursday to The College Fix. Administrators at the university added that the mural and many others at the school “serve as a reminder and testimonial to an unsavory and criminal portion of Indiana’s history.”

The mural – entitled “Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press” and painted by renowned 20th century artist Thomas Hart Benton – is part of a 22-panel mural series on the Bloomington campus. The mural, originally painted for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, was installed at Indiana University in 1941.

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An educational video from the school said that the mural, which also features a journalist working at a typewriter, mechanics and laborers, is meant to show the “social and industrial history of Indiana from Native American mound builders to the industrialized age.”

“Through much discussion, analysis and reflection over many years, Indiana University has consistently concluded that education is the best response to concerns over the Benton Murals,” the school said on its webpage.

The call to remove the mural comes just weeks after a deadly clash broke out near the campus of the University of Virginia over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The petition to remove Benton’s mural was started by former Indiana student Jacquline Barrie, who noted in her petition that “[t]he mural does not mark a time in history of Indiana because it is still extremely relevant today.

The mural’s presence inside the school’s Woodburn Hall, the petition alleges, encroaches upon the university’s diversity statement and “violates the student rights and code of ethics” by making students of color take classes in “an environment that promotes a group known for discriminating against people of color.”

“I was really bothered by the fact that the controversy surrounding it has gone somewhat unnoticed by the majority of students, myself included,” Barrie said in an email to The College Fix. She added that she has received a mixed response from school administrators.

“My response is this, a university cannot say that they strive for an inclusive environment and a learning environment that supports everyone while also acknowledging that the mural can have a negative impact on students that can affect their ability to focus and learn,” she said.