Despite being lauded for saving the world, surviving devastating event after devastating event and enduring for decades, the Greatest Generation is no longer welcome on some college campuses.
This week, the University of Rhode Island became the latest school to demand the removal of a historic statue, mural or portrait. This time, the targets are not slave owners, Confederates, or other questionable historic figures — but those who served in the armed forces during World War II.
Far from being lost to history, some of these individuals still live today, and their bravery and sacrifice should be applauded, not erased. The University of Rhode Island has other ideas, though, because the murals in question do not depict the “righ”t brave soldiers.
The college took steps to remove two World War II memorials from the school after a wave of student complaints. According to one official, the murals’ lack of diversity was so harmful that “some of our students have even shared with us they didn’t feel comfortable sitting in that space.”
The murals in question are 70 years old, and show soldiers returning from World War II and to the University itself. The murals depict the soldiers as white men — because they largely (but not entirely) were. They were painted by a student in 1950 and modeled after photographs and images shared of soldiers returning from the war at the time.
Painter Art Sherman is now 95-years-old, but recalls the process, which included plenty of input from Rhode Island students.
“Well, it depicted that era,” Sherman continued. “A lot of students, friends of mine, would come by and say why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that so that’s what I did so everybody chipped in.”
Students today, however, do not feel like the school murals depict the correct balance of individuals, and want them removed. If the University caves to the pressure (as it has indicated it likely will), then the murals will join portraits of George Washington and other presidents, explorers and military figures and be expunged from history.
Student complaints about artwork are becoming increasingly popular, with some young people unable to bear being in the same room with art they deem unacceptable or not diverse enough. Schools have overwhelmingly complied with student demnands, and Rhode Island is likely to as well. One school official explained the decision.
“I have received complaints about the murals that portray a very homogeneous population predominately the persons painted and depicted on the wall are predominantly white and that does not represent who our institution is today,” he said.
There is no word as to what would take the place of these murals, or how they would be removed or replaced, but the latest announcements from the school seem to indicate they are willing to comply.
Featured Image by Kenneth C. Zirkel