In a recent letter to the Iowa State community, President Wendy Wintersteen addressed the need to create a formal policy for renaming buildings and monuments. This comes after decades of protest around the naming of Catt Hall as well as the recent outrage over W.T. Hornaday's racist and harmful actions. The Iowa State Daily covers this here: "President Wendy Wintersteen calls actions of W.T. Hornaday 'indefensible, reprehensible and racist.'"
The Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity wants to take a moment to recognize the role Black activists, and in particular Black womxn, have played in calling out racist, misogynistic and harmful systems. In 1995, then-director of the Sloss Center, Dr. Celia E. Naylor-Ojurongbe, penned this letter to the Iowa State Daily urging the Iowa State community to consider the weight of Catt's words and the impact honoring her has on the Black and people of color community on campus: "Can We Talk? Racism: Now and Then."
Today, 25 years later, we are asking the same questions around whose histories and identities we celebrate and whose are largely forgotten. Dismantling white supremacy is a feminist issue. Twenty-five years ago, director Celia E. Naylor-Ojurongbe urged us to continue to educate ourselves around the women's suffrage movement and Carrie Chapman Catt. Today, as the current director of the Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity, it is my belief that Carrie Chapman Catt does not represent the kind of legacy we strive to uphold. I believe we need to change the name.
With all the evidence we now have and decades of conversations, protests and calls for action behind us, the time has come to consider whether upholding the story of one is worth the silencing of many. Changing the name of Catt Hall would be a bold step toward becoming the most welcoming land-grant institution in the nation.
Dr. Ruxandra Looft, Director of the Margaret Sloss Center for Women & Gender Equity