OPINION | Remember Butler’s history

On Feb. 7, Butler University will celebrate its history and founder.
The university has a long history worthy of pride.
But as members of a community, we should take time to learn all of our history.
No current or living individual has responsibility for the actions of people in the past.
At the same time through, if we want to call our institution Butler University, we need to take ownership of what that means.
Ovid Butler founded the university as an abolitionist institution.
This was before anti-slavery was very popular, even in the north.
When the Klu Klux Klan gained local influence, the university decided to play it safe.
From 1927 to 1947, Butler admitted only 10 black students each year.
Officials felt it would be dangerous to have people of color on campus. At least, that is how they justified it.
Many white moderates throughout our nation’s history gave similar justifications.
The Civil Rights Movement, according to people such as Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, was pushing too far, too fast.
Many other people agreed and argued that incremental progress was the safest path.
But the legacy of people like Ovid Butler was not founded in careful consideration of the sensitivities of racists.
Butler was also the second university in the nation to admit women.
Again, Butler was leading by example.
And once again, this was not at a time when it was politically convenient.
Gertrude Mahorney graduated from Butler in 1887 as the first woman of color to do so and went on to become a teacher in Indianapolis.
If we want to truly honor Ovid Butler’s memory and the university as a whole, we need to focus on the right parts.
Butler’s history is one of commitment to what is morally right, not to what is acceptable or convenient.
And we must also remember that not even the university itself has kept that promise at its core.
We should learn from that mistake.
And every member of this community should try to live up to the best of our past with its darker moments in mind.
This advice applies to more than just students or universities.

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