IU biology staff want building named for noted Black teacher
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — More than 100 staff members with Indiana University’s biology department are calling for a department building once named after a 19th century IU president who supported eugenics to be renamed after a noted Black faculty member.
A petition signed by 144 members of the Bloomington campus’ biology department urges school leadership to rename the Biology Building in honor of James Holland, an award-winning teacher and endocrinologist who died in 1998, The Herald-Times reported.
IU biology professor Armin Moczek, who sits on a diversity, equity and inclusion committee that spearheaded the renaming petition, said Holland’s impact is still felt in the department.
He was the first African American to earn a doctorate from the department in 1961. He returned to IU in 1967 as an associate professor, became a full professor in 1974 and stayed until his death in 1998.
Moczek said Holland was a pioneer in his field who also opened doors for others and mentored IU students of diverse backgrounds.
“He really exemplified dedicated and competent leadership and exemplified creating opportunities for those whose biographies, backgrounds and socioeconomic conditions, etc., make it just a little harder to have their talents find their way into academia,” he said.
“I really admire this, it’s something I aspire to, and having a building named in his honor, I see no downside to it.”
IU President Pamela Whitten has received the petition, which will first head to the University Naming Committee, said IU spokesman Chuck Carney.
The building was formerly known as Jordan Hall, getting its name from David Starr Jordan, who was a proponent of eugenics, the practice of controlled selective breeding of humans often carried out through forced sterilization.
In the past year, IU has dropped Jordan’s name from campus buildings and landmarks and begun the process of renaming them amid a nationwide movement to get rid of Confederate monuments and other racially offensive symbols.
Jordan, who was an IU professor of zoology from 1875 to 1885, wrote in a book about his belief that humanity would thrive only if the fittest were promoted. He served as IU’s president from 1885 until 1891 and later became the first president of Stanford University. He died in 1931.