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Indiana University's Jordan Hall in Bloomington

IU Bloomington campus will remove names of buildings honoring past president Jordan

Contributed By:The 411 News

At forefront of America's Eugenics Movement of selective breeding and sterilization

Bloomington – 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.

In a series titled “The Blood of the Nation,” Jordan promoted taking people he deemed unworthy out of the gene pool through sterilization.

Jordan wrote that sterilizing people who had low IQ scores or were mentally ill, weak or disabled in any way kept them from passing down their genes and improved the human species.

Although Jordan became a leader in eugenics after leaving IU, McRobbie said, “It is nevertheless abundantly clear that to continue to honor Jordan with these namings would run counter to IU's 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.”

Jordan chaired the Committee on Eugenics of the American Breeder’s Association, which created a sterilization program in California between 1909 and 1979.

Jordan also founded the Human Betterment Foundation, which advocated for legalizing the sterilization of the mentally ill.

According to a 2005 paper by University of Michigan professor Alexandra Stern, 30 states legalized sterilization and sterilized 60,000 people in 70 years.

Indiana was the first of these states to legalize involuntary sterilization in 1907.

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.

Three university sites carry the Jordan name: Jordan Hall, Jordan Avenue Parking Garage, and the Jordan River. 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.

Story Posted:09/27/2020

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