Editor's Note: There has been a change to the content included in the editorial due to misrepresented facts and conclusions. The Daily regrets this error.
As the Black Lives Matter movement seeps across the country, monuments are vandalized and statues torn apart, there leaves no exceptions, not even at Iowa State University.
Students are angry and chanting for change. On June 18, protesters from the Ames and Iowa State community marched around campus and up to The Knoll, where President Wendy Wintersteen resides, demanding a significant change to campus: a new name for Catt Hall.
Catt Hall memorializes Carrie Chapman Catt, a historical women’s suffrage activist beginning in the late 1880s who founded the League of Women Voters in 1920. She championed the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution as well. Catt was even an Iowa State graduate in 1880. However, the situation is more nuanced that we were ever led to believe.
Quoted from her advocacy days in the early 1900s, “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”
Is this who we are choosing to memorialize and value on our campus?
Many argue Carrie Chapman Catt was a product of her time period. That her rhetoric was too powerful. That her suffragist activism was too strong. That we shouldn’t disregard her contributions to women.
But what is the true purpose of a monument? A memorial? “Monuments and memorials serve multiple functions in the communities in which they are erected,” according to an article in Facing History. “When the members of a community create a monument or memorial, they are making a statement about the ideas, values, or individuals they think their society should remember, if not honor.”
There are a few fallacies to Catt’s character that come into question:
She was a major suffragist, but didn’t fight for all women’s suffrage
She should represent Iowa State to its fullest extent, but she doesn’t
We need to be more exclusive and inclusive about who and what we are honoring. Catt was expressive in her racism, and that is not intolerable.
Yes, we should respect and admire her work for contributing to women’s suffrage. But we should not memorialize a woman who does not fully represent what Iowa State and the nation want to value.
We will no longer tolerate oppression in any way and neither will our communities. The Ames Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chapter President, George Jackson, said the university should change the name so that it could say, “I will not tolerate racism in any form or fashion.”
Equality is no longer an issue that has gray areas. Equality is a black and white issue with a yes or no reaction. By keeping Catt Hall’s name, we are riding the gray line and continuing to tolerate racism on campus.
Catt Hall’s name is not the only one at stake. Every building and monument on campus will be brought to court, and the jury has already spoken: Black Lives Matter.
Our mission statement says it all: “Create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.” Note: we can’t make the world a better place if we continue to remain ignorant about racist figures on campus.
That’s not who we stand for and that’s not what we stand for. The battle to change Catt Hall’s name is a battle fought for far too long, haunting our campus for decades. It is impossible to honor someone while knowing they supported the oppression of Black communities of Americans. Tolerating racism is not enough. Not anymore.
Now is the time for Iowa State to choose someone with a history that is not blemished by racism, but is in support for Black lives everywhere. We speak of inclusivity, but we need to put the actions behind our words and be better.
Renaming Catt Hall is long overdue.