Notre Dame University, located in South Bend, Indiana, is no stranger to controversy on its campus. The university is currently in the middle of a dispute involving the murals on the college campus. The mural depicts explorer Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas and the colonists’ interactions with Native Americans. However, some objected to the mural’s content because it displayed a Euro-centric view of the colonization.
Notre Dame’s president, Reverend John Jenkins, agreed to cover the 135-year-old murals until the administration figures out how to “create a permanent display for high-quality, high-resolution images of the murals in a campus setting to be determined.” The university determined that moving the murals would damage them.
The murals were commissioned by the university and are located in the main building on Notre Dame’s campus, and there are twelve murals in total. Notre Dame’s founder, Father Edward Sorwin, commissioned Luigi Gregori to paint murals that would depict these events to inspire and educate viewers.
Native American activists and some alumni praised Jenkins’ decision to cover the murals and create a permanent display on the campus to better inform viewers of the murals’ content. Others contend that the murals do have descriptions already available and that this decision was caving in the face of pressure.
This development is not a blip on the radar, so to speak. Activists have pushed for the abolishment of Columbus Day, a federal holiday put into place by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because it glorifies Western colonization and the subjugation of Native American tribes. Their proposed replacement—which some cities such as Seattle, Washington, have enacted as a city holiday—is called “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Several campuses celebrate this replacement of Columbus Day, which is mostly observed by activists who claim ancestors from Native American tribes or Latin American countries colonized by the West.
We at Accuracy in Academia have covered issues that have popped up on campus for years. For example, some Notre Dame students walked out of Vice President Mike Pence’s commencement address in May 2017 as a way to protest their disapproval of the Trump-Pence administration, even though Pence’s social conservative values often align with those of Catholicism. One political stance Pence and Catholics agree on is pro-life policies on abortion, but even this point of agreement did not sway the protesting soon-to-be Notre Dame graduates.
The mural controversy and recent events at Notre Dame University should have Catholics and students’ parents concerned that a Catholic higher education institution has opened its doors to liberal ideological indoctrination.