Cutting ties with David Starr Jordan

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By: Cassidy Martenson


The Indiana University Board of Trustees decided in an eight-to-one vote to remove the David Starr Jordan name from various locations around the Bloomington campus on Oct. 1. This decision was based on Jordan’s advocacy for the eugenics movement, a philosophy that seeks to improve the human race through forced sterilization and segregation. 

David Starr Jordan began his career at IU as a professor of natural history in 1879, before becoming president of the university in 1885. He maintained this position until 1891 when he became the first president of Stanford University. 

Jordan was more than an educator, he was also an advocate for the extremely controversial eugenics movement. According to the Stanford Eugenics History Project, Jordan “was a eugenicist, a promoter of the belief that the human race could be improved by restricting the reproduction of ‘inferior’ populations such as disabled people and people of color.”

On Oct. 7, Stanford University approved recommendations for Jordan’s name to be removed from multiple locations across its campus. Stanford University also vowed to better explain the full range of Jordan’s contributions in a way that “[ensures] that Jordan’s history is not removed from the Stanford campus but rather more fully articulated in ways that cannot be achieved simply by a building name.” 

IU has taken a stronger stance in acknowledging Jordan’s eugenics beliefs. According to President Mcrobbie, “Jordan promoted a branch of eugenic thought known as ‘negative eugenics,’ which later sought, through marriage laws, forced sterilization practices, and immigration controls, to prevent breeding among those deemed to be of ‘unfit stock’.” It was decided that Jordan’s contributions to the university were not significant enough to compensate for his racist and discriminatory ideals. 

According to IU’s Office of the President, Jordan “oversaw the university’s move to the new campus at Dunn’s Woods in 1885, secured money for new buildings from the legislature, introduced the major department system, lectured on the value of the university to the state of Indiana, and increased IU’s enrollment and its number of faculty members.”

Trustee Patrick Shoulders was the only board member to vote against the renaming, and he cited Jordan’s other accomplishments as basis for his vote. Shoulders stated that the committee discovered no evidence that his name was placed on these locations to recognize his connection to the eugenics movement. 

Jordan Hall, Jordan River, and Jordan Parking Garage will be called Biology Building, Campus River, and East Parking Garage for the time being. McRobbie recommended that new names not be considered for at least a year. 

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