Welcome to the archives for NewsTalk, an IBJ blog published from November 2007 through December 2010.

Grading racism on a curve

November 11, 2008
An Indiana University committee made the right call yesterday when it recommended leaving the name of a segregationist on an athletics facility, says a Ball State University historian.

John Mathew Glen says the committee appropriately recognized contributions of former judge and trustee Ora L. Wildermuth, while making amends by also suggesting adding the name of IUâ??s first black basketball player, standout William L. Garrett, who died in 1974.

Garrettâ??s name would be placed ahead of Wildermuthâ??s, an idea that President Michael McRobbie plans to forward to a trustee committee later this month.

Wildermuth was a trustee from 1925 to 1952. A 2006 book about Garrett contains a letter from Wildermuth to former IU President Herman Wells in which Wildermuth wrote that blacks had inferior intelligence and had a bleak future.

Wells, however, added Wildermuthâ??s name to the intramural fieldhouse, and the committee this week ultimately deferred to Wellsâ?? judgment.

â??Weâ??re still trusting Herman,â?? committee head Terry Clapacs told The Herald-Times.

Thatâ??s not such a bad standard, says Ball Stateâ??s Glen.

Wildermuth was a creature of his times, and the university shouldnâ??t paper it over, Glen says.

But Glen adds that the line between acknowledging history and commemorating ugly chapters of history is gray.

No credible person celebrates Hitler. But monuments built by Mussolini in the â??30s still stand in Italy. And the portrait of another tyrant, Chairman Mao, continues to hang over Tiananmen Square.

Where do you draw the line?
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