New Initiative Will Update Traditional 'Dude Wall'
It was a cool, clear day in Bloomington on August 25, 2019 when National Public Radio aired a short piece about "dude walls" at different academic institutions. "It inspired some real introspection," IU School of Public Health Dean David Allison recalls.
Just what are "dude walls"? The dusty portraits adorning the halls of academic institutions like the Yale School of Medicine and New York's Rockefeller University. These often include past distinguished faculty and accomplished researchers, and, overwhelmingly, the featured faces are white and male.
While visiting Rockefeller University, MSNBC Political Commentator Rachel Maddow saw the school's exhibit of noteworthy scientists and had asked, "What's up with the dude wall?" The name stuck—and Allison began thinking about the School of Public Health's own "dude wall".
"Our Dean's Conference Room features pictures of our former deans," he explains. "We admire and respect those leaders, yet we also want to share with pride the diversity of our current school. All but one of our former deans is a man—and that one exception is a white woman. What does that lack of diversity telegraph to our students, to faculty, and to visitors?"
According to the NPR story, some institutions were removing portraits of their past leaders, but that did not seem right. Allison began thinking of all of the deans at other schools and colleges around the country who had received their degrees at IU School of Public Health-Bloomington (or its former incarnation, the School of Health, Physical Education & Recreation.) "I realized that we do not just have deans," Allison notes. "We make deans. And the deans who have emanated from the school are rich in their diversity."
So, now, in addition to honoring its own past deans with exhibited portraits, IU School of Public Health-Bloomington unveiled a new set of portraits on the opposite wall highlighting alumni serving as academic deans at other institutions. "We wanted to install a new wall of honor to showcase portraits of the diverse group of our alumni who have attained deanships elsewhere," Allison says.
Work on the new display was begun by a working group established in August 2019 whose members included Dr. Maresa Murray, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Organizational Climate and Clinical Associate Professor; Dr. Brandon Howell, Assistant Dean of Operations; Dr. David Skirvin, Assistant Dean of Facilities; and Amy Oakley, Director of Outreach, Alumni Engagement and Events.
"As I considered this project, I also thought about the rock critic David Fricke's famous sentiment," Allison continues. "He said, 'Respect the elders. Embrace the new. Encourage the impractical and improbable, without bias.' We'll want to be sure to do each of those things as we move forward."