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Letter writer Crystal Brandenburgh accepts that changing your mind surrounding issues is OK, especially on matters that impact lives. 

I became fascinated with Carrie Chapman Catt and the surrounding controversy at Iowa State as a sophomore three years ago. As a history major, I had the unique experience to complete in-depth research into Catt’s life, reading almost everything she ever wrote. In publications, academic conferences and popular presentations, I have explored both Catt’s accomplishments and her antiquated racial views. Over the past three years, I have researched Carrie Chapman Catt as thoroughly as anyone could, and in that same time I have consistently argued against any renaming of Catt Hall.

Now, I have changed my mind. 

Citing historical context, I argued that Catt’s racist comments were born of a political strategy and that, on the whole, she was much more progressive on race than the vast majority of white Americans at the time. While this is true, we are in a moment now which calls for us to ensure that our values are not just adequately but extraordinarily represented in those whom we choose to idolize.

Catt was born into an era that saw consistent and often violent efforts to replace ideals of freedom, equality and open political participation with a regime of patriarchal white supremacy. She cannot match our values, nor should she.

She advocated for women in a revolutionary way, bringing women into the political sphere. She also advocated for Black people, refuting scurrilous charges of rape brought against Black soldiers in Germany in 1921, publicly supporting the return of stolen land to people of color worldwide and encouraging the publication of Black suffrage leader Mary Church Terrell’s autobiography, "A Colored Woman in a White World."[1] 

But, in this moment, our community needs to make certain that our values of diversity, mutual respect and equality are represented without exception.

Changing the name of Catt Hall is an important step in that direction, but it cannot be the only step. It must be accompanied by substantive efforts to remake Iowa State University into a campus in which all students, faculty, staff and community members are safe, respected and allowed to reach their fullest potential.

Some have taken the extra step of calling for the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics to be renamed as well. I believe the Catt Center has much more reason to keep its name.

While Catt Hall was deemed so out of convenience, the Catt Center has made Catt’s aspirational goals for all women, goals which she was never able to fulfill, a centerpiece of their incredible efforts. I believe there is merit to saying “We were inspired by her great work for women, but we are committed to doing and being better than her.”

Catt herself called for women of later generations to do better than her generation ever could. And I don’t know a single mother, grandmother or great-grandmother who doesn’t fully expect their descendants to outmatch them in every way.

Where Catt Hall stands as an oversimplified monument to an incredibly complex woman, the Catt Center acknowledges her flaws, celebrates her victories and commits itself to a more just and equitable future for all women.

Catt Hall is not the only name which should be rethought. From W.T. Hornaday to former President Martin Jischke, we must do our due diligence to remove tributes to those who do not fully represent the ideals Iowa State has pledged to uphold.

Because of the severe punishment inflicted on Catt Hall protesters in the 1990s, Catt’s own racist statements and the higher standard demanded of us by this moment, I believe Catt Hall should be renamed. We cannot expect Iowa State University to flourish as a diverse community of scholars unless we are committed to advocating tirelessly for positive change, even when it is difficult and uncomfortable.

Crystal Brandenburgh is an alumna of Iowa State.

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(2) comments

Steve Gregg

In Islam, there is a doctrine known as takfir, where one Muslim denounces another Muslim as an unbeliever, who should be excommunicated from Islam. Of course, such heretics must be killed. The result of this doctrine is that ever more radical Muslims denounce each other for not being radical enough in their belief in Islam. Takfir keeps the world of Islam in an everlasting war against itself.

The same doctrine is playing out among the radical leftists war on Catt Hall. Once upon a time, she was OK with the radicals as a suffragette, but now the radicals find her insufficiently pure in leftist doctrine, so she must be erased, canceled. It’s amusing to watch the leftist takfiris make war on each other over their leftist temple, Catt Hall. And, you can be sure that whoever they rename Catt Hall after, she, too, will one day be found to be insufficiently pure in leftist doctrine and will require purging.

Hopefully, there are some sane people left at Iowa State who reject lefty takfiri tactics and the destructive cultural Marxists who employ them. If you don’t reject them now, the whole campus will come into play, not just one building, and these idiots will rule you.

Brian Mcdonough

The following passages of racist Catt are from this Iowa State page from racist Iowa State Center for racist Catt: "This Government is menaced with great danger, and that danger cannot be averted by the triumph of the part of protection, nor by that of free trade, nor by the triumph of single tax or of free silver. That danger lies in the votes possessed by the males in the SLUMS of the cities, and the ignorant FOREIGN votes." "Every ship load of FOREIGNERS brings them nearer to their object." "There is but one way to avert the danger--cut off the vote of the SLUMS and give to women." "Cut it off at the bottom, the vote of the SLUMS. "Granting the vote to woman and cutting of the vote of the SLUMS, if it could not be otherwise controlled, would result at once in good." There's more racism from Catt. How is that possible? Ponder thrice, if your stomach can tolerate it, another evil Iowa State page from racist Iowa State Center for racist Catt: But there's more. How is that possible? Well, this is racist Iowa State Catt. In "Woman Suffrage by Federal Constitutional Amendment," racist Iowa State Catt wrote at page 77: ""in nine other states the number of white women exceeds the total negro population. Woman suffrage would so vastly increase the white vote that it would GUARANTEE WHITE SUPREMACY if it otherwise stood in danger of overthrow.” Racist Iowa State Catt did not want simply to "strengthen" white supremacy. Racist Iowa State Catt wanted to "guarantee" white supremacy. If you think that Catt's racism could not get any worse, she boldly declares this racist 'call to action' in the same text: "If the South really wants white supremacy, it will urge the enfranchisement of women.” Catt should be cast out of ISU: her racist name removed from everywhere. The Center for this racist should removed from Iowa State and given to Steve King as its new Director. It could be called the "State of IowaSteve King & Carrie Catt Center To Encourage Racist Politics And Culture." Iowa State students: don't be "chumps" about racist Iowa State Catt. You know what Mister Little of Omaha said about "chumps." The only thing worse than being their chump - is being your own chump. Action and change are verbs - not nouns. They have no past tense and no future tense - only the present tense. Only now...

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