Rename Jordan Hall, Jordan Avenue, and Jordan River on Indiana University's Campus

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In 2017, an anonymous flyer was circulated around Jordan Hall at Indiana University listing facts about the involvement of the building’s namesake, David Starr Jordan, in the American Eugenics Movement. The presence of said flyers prompted discussions about renaming the building. Jordan is also the namesake of Jordan Avenue and the Jordan River located on Indiana University’s campus. In 2018, the PACE program held a discussion on the subject of renaming of Jordan Hall, but despite these recent actions, the conversation to rename the building has tapered off.

Over the last week, protests have erupted in all fifty states over the murders of George Floyd (Minneapolis, MN), Breonna Taylor (Louisville, KY), Dreasjon Reed (Indianapolis, IN), and far too many other Black Americans at the hands of white police officers, as well as the murders of Ahmaud Arbery (Brunswick, GA) and Trayvon Martin (Sanford, FL) at the hands of white men who believed that they had the right to serve as the judge, jury, and executioner of unarmed black men who were doing nothing more than jogging & walking down the street, respectively. In response to these protests, IU President Michael McRobbie sent out a campus wide email that stated, “We must continue to insist that there is absolutely no room at IU for discrimination or harassment based on anyone’s actual or perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or political beliefs. We see our diversity as one of our cardinal virtues. We are extremely proud of our students of color and their achievements – students who are such a vital part of the cultural and historical fabric of our institution, but we will have failed them if we cannot provide to them campus environments where they feel safe, supported and respected.”

Despite President McRobbie’s sentiments, by having Jordan’s name displayed on IU's campus, the University has already failed its students of color. How could students of color possibly “feel safe, supported and respected” when, during their daily routines on campus, they must walk on a street, sit in a building, or pass over a waterway that are all named for a racist eugenicist whose research & publications state things such as:

“There is no objection to national expansion, but colonies are not national expansion; slaves are not men. Wherever degenerate, dependent or alien races are within our borders today they are not part of the United States. They constitute a social problem, a menace to peace and welfare." (“Anti-Imperialism", authored by Jordan and published in the San Francisco Call on 29 January 1899).

The bulk of Jordan’s racist views and belief in eugenics can be found in his 1901 work Blood of a Nation: A Study in the Decay of Races by the Survival of the Unfit. In this work, Jordan calls for racial breeding in order to ensure the racial domination of Anglo-Saxons and supports the idea of racial hierarchy in which those who are not Anglo-Saxons are considered racially inferior. The entirety of Blood of a Nation can be found online

Furthermore, in chapter three of his work David Starr Jordan: Prophet of Freedom, Jordan’s biographer, Edward McNall Burns, attributed the following words to Jordan: “To say that one race is superior to another is merely to confirm the common observation of every intelligent citizen.”

Whatever strides were made by David Starr Jordan during his time at Indiana University are overshadowed by his racist beliefs and his role in the American Eugenics Movement. It is important to note that eugenics is a pseudoscience, and has done far more harm than good throughout history. As an early contributor to said pseudoscience in the United States, Jordan’s research and publications played a major role in a movement that not only resulted in the mass sterilization of over 60,000 people in the United States (most being POC) but also served as part of the foundation for the Nazi “Final Solution” and the Nazi campaign to forcibly sterilize hundreds of mixed race children born to African and German parents. By continuing to have Jordan’s name emblazoned on its campus, IU provides its support for Jordan’s unacceptable views as well as his role in the American eugenics movement and by extension its resulting impact on both people of color and the Jewish community. By choosing to do this, the University is not only failing students, but is also in violation of their own core principle of “respect for the dignity of others". 

IU recently removed the name of Ora Wildermuth from its Intramural Center due to Wildermuth’s history of racist views, and the University should continue on the path that it has set for itself of no longer glorifying racist individuals on campus. Stanford University, for which David Starr Jordan was the founding President after leaving IU, recently began a committee at the request of the Department of Psychology (which is housed in Stanford’s own Jordan Hall) to rename the building, citing Jordan’s history of racism and belief in eugenics as their reasoning. 

In line with the precedent IU has set for itself by renaming the Intramural Center, and in line with the professors of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University, I call upon the leaders of Indiana University and the Bloomington City Government to remove the name of David Starr Jordan from Jordan Hall, Jordan Avenue (and by extension the related parking garage), and Jordan River on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus and to find an individual more deserving of the honor of having their name displayed on campus. Additionally, I call upon the University to be more transparent in their portrayal of David Starr Jordan, and address his history of racism and eugenics on the page dedicated to him in the Past Presidents section of the Office of the President webpage.

Racism and discrimination has no place at IU, and that includes the names of buildings, streets, parking structures, and waterways.

Petition author Megan Chapman is a 2020 graduate of the IU History Department and the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies and is a rising 1L at the IU Maurer School of Law.