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Tufts U. to remove murals because they contain no people of color

Tufts University will be removing a set of murals from its Alumnae Lounge due to their lack of people of color … which students say causes them to feel “unwelcome” and “excluded.”

“As a matter of historical record […] the murals tell an incomplete story about the origins and growth of Tufts,” writes Laura Ferguson in TuftsNow. “There is not a single image of a person of color, for example, despite the fact that black students were enrolled at Tufts as early as the late nineteenth century.”

At a forum last year, students took on the school administration over the murals, saying the images “undermine [Tuft’s] values of diversity and inclusion.” Senior Vice President Deborah Kochevar said “Students have told us that they don’t want to receive awards in Alumnae Lounge because they feel excluded, and that’s important to hear.”

Last fall a review committee decided to remove the murals, but would “professionally conserve” and archive them.

From the story:

Katrina Moore, director of the Africana Center and fellow committee member, said “the first and most significant factor” framing the committee’s recommendation is that Alumnae Lounge “honors all Tufts alumni,” while the murals “make alumni of color invisible, and, therefore tell an incomplete story. By erasing the presence of students of color . . . from the historical record, the murals create an unwelcoming space for current students of color.”

Looking ahead, the discussions surrounding the murals in Alumnae Lounge have highlighted the need to establish a university-wide public art committee that will develop policies around public art spaces on all Tufts campuses and ensure that they represent the rich diversity of the university community. As part of this new focus, an ad hoc committee will guide the future decorative scheme specifically for Alumnae Lounge. …

In reporting back to Kochevar, the [review committee] members wrote that the committee “strongly feels that the murals do not reflect the dynamic, ever-evolving composition of the student and alumni body (or faculty and staff).” They continued: “Even when they were installed, the murals offered only a selective view of the university’s history, campus, leadership, and students . . . . In our view, it is time to update the image of the university bodied forth in this important room.”

Not everyone was satisfied with the decision, however. Former provost Sol Gittleman said the murals “speak to a sense of ‘American triumphalism’ as seen through the eyes of Tufts’ Unitarian Universalist founders.” Committee Chairman Andrew McClellan, a professor of art and art history, said he was concerned about any plan for the murals which “consign[ed them] to oblivion.”

McClellan relaxed his view after being assured of the murals’ protection and accessibility; he also was swayed by students’ feelings of exclusion “because they were so conspicuously excluded from the murals.”

Read the TuftsNow article.

h/t: Washington Examiner

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