Indiana University considers removing segregationist's name from building

What do a Saudi-Arabian arms dealer and a bigot from Indiana have in common? They both sat on the boards of trustees at two accredited American universities and have had campus sport complexes named after them.

At Indiana University, the sports complex adjacent to the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, bears the name of Judge Ora L. Wildermuth - a president of the board of trustees at IU from 1938 to 1949 and active segregationist.

Wildermuth's name resurfaced on April 10 after Indiana Daily student journalist Andrew Shaffer reported about segregationist remarks found in an old letter from Wildermuth to IU Comptroller Ward G. Biddle regarding IU's African American student body.

In the letter, Wildermuth wrote,"So few of them succeed and the average of the race as to intelligence, economic status and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future."

Wildermuth further highlighted his stance on racial integration by writing, "I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to the social intermingling of the colored race with the white. I belong to the white race and shall remain loyal to it. It always has been the dominant and leading race."

The information was found as Shaffer was reading a book wherein he came across a few quotes from Wildermuth, according to Mike Sanserino, the sports editor for the Indiana Daily Student.

In the article, which appeared on the Daily Student's April 10 issue, Shaffer called for a presentation before the board of trustees by the university President Adam Herbert regarding changing the namesake of the Ora L. Wildermuth Intramural Center.

Herbert commended Shaffer for his journalistic work, according to Sanserino, and mentioned that he had already made arrangements to address the issue in front of the board of trustees. In a second response, Herbert claimed he was "disappointed, but not surprised, that such views were promulgated by a leading Indiana citizen at that point in history."

The IU scandal conjures memories of Adnan M. Khashoggi, an international financier and well-known arms dealer who once had strong ties to AU, until the U.S. government issued a warrant for his arrest. Khaschoggi's criminal charges were of fraud, racketeering and obstruction of justice, The Eagle previously reported.

Khashoggi served on AU's board of trustees from spring 1983 to the spring of 1989. Khashoggi's donation of $5 million to the university went towards the construction of a new convocation and sports arena, to be the named the Adnan Khashoggi Sports and Convocation Center, as stated in an article from 1985 in The Washington Post.

The complex would also bear the names of other benefactors, namely in the Bender Sports Arena and the John M. Reeves Aquatic Center. However, after criminal charges surfaced, the issue of keeping the building's namesake was under debate. Khashoggi was eventually acquitted of all charges, but in 1986 he admitted, on national television, to advancing $5 million toward the shipment of arms in the Iran-Contra scandal, The Eagle previously reported.

By this time, Khashoggi was already a well-known arms dealer in the Middle East, having taken payments from defense companies since the 1970s which totaled more than $100 million dollars. The Eagle and the Post published editorials advocating for the removal of Khashoggi's name from the center.

The building's name was changed shortly thereafter. Jorge Abud, then-Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Administrative Services, cited "excessive absences," claiming "[Khashoggi's name] was removed because he did not fulfill his financial pledge," The Eagle previously reported.

IU is still debating the issue of the Wildermuth Intramural Center.

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