CAMDEN, NJ — Rutgers-Camden plans to cover a mosaic frieze that shows Christopher Columbus, indigenous peoples in subservient positions, as well as other images being called hateful and intolerant for their depictions.
“Rutgers–Camden is a place of inclusion. We know that we are stronger — as a community and as a nation — when we embrace the diversity of our great state and the humane treatment of all people,” university spokesman Mike Sepanic told TAPinto Camden on Thursday. “The image depicted on this frieze does not reflect those values. In the coming days, we will obscure the frieze while we explore longer-term options for addressing and remedying this situation.”
The mosaic, located at the entrance of Cooper Branch Library on campus, was designed by D'Ascenzo Studios of Philadelphia in 1916, according to the school’s website.
Ben Saracco, a Camden resident, has been among those pointing to the controversial piece.
He said the mosaic at Johnson Park nearby from where he resides, “has very offensive themes and imagery” that don’t reflect Camden or Rutgers University.
“Specifically the imagery of Christopher Columbus and kneeling indigenous people of color who are depicted as uncivilized and devoid of knowledge and higher learning,” Saracco wrote to the school.
The removal of such imagery countrywide in step with Black Lives Matter protests, has been a trend in Camden as well.
The school district announced Tuesday it plans to rename Woodrow Wilson High School and last week the city said it would reevaluate "symbols of hate” in the area — removing the Christopher Columbus statue at Farnham Park the same day.
When asked what other images or symbols Rutgers-Camden is in the process of obscuring as well, Sepanic said, “Current context is providing us an opportunity to rethink these matters. We are committed to having conversations within the Rutgers system and — most importantly — with our students and our larger community. We are working to establish a framework for those reflections.”