Student Body President Issy Rushton and Vice President Hannah White called for the Presidential Commission on University History to take action regarding the renaming of campus buildings in an open letter posted on social media Monday.
"Over the last year, the university has publicly denounced hate and racism, calling for the renaming of all buildings with racist backgrounds. Yet, these statements mean nothing for the values of the institution without a record of intentional action," Rushton and White said in the letter.
The letter specifically references the J. Marion Sims residence hall. The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution to ask state lawmakers to rename the residence hall about eight months ago.
"Our community is searching for change, and this commission has continued to let questions go unanswered," Rushton and White wrote. "The longer we continue without action, the more this university will lose the trust of students, alumni, faculty, and staff."
In a preface to the letter, White spoke about her own struggles as a Black university ambassador encouraging Black prospective students to come to USC when she goes "home every day debating whether the university really cares."
“I’m tired of going to meetings and retreats begging for the same outcomes and being ignored," White wrote. "I’m tired of saying how I feel and getting an excuse that shows the absence of intentionality and care. I’m tired of overthinking the perfect way to say what I want to say in order to be seen as worthy of being listened to.”
President Bob Caslen created the Presidential Commission on University History in 2019 to look into the history of the university and take action where it was needed, including the renaming of campus buildings.
The commission has since hosted four virtual public forums regarding controversial building names on campus. During these forums students, faculty and alumni called for the renaming of several buildings, such as the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center and the Sims residence hall.
"Everything takes time, and I personally understand their frustration. It simply takes time," Valinda Littlefield, co-chair of the Commission on University History, said regarding the letter.
The chairs of the commission, Littlefield, West and president emeritus Harris Pastides said in a letter "this is not easy work" and that peer institutions, such as UNC Chapel Hill, have spent years looking over their history and going over name recommendations.
The UNC Chapel Hill Commission on History, Race and a Way Forward was formed Jan. 8, 2020 by current Chancellor of UNC Kevin M. Guskiewicz, serving as a continuation of the previous chancellor's Task Force on UNC-Chapel Hill History. The commission physically removed the names of racist figures from four buildings on July 29, 2020. The Commission voted to remove the names on July 14.
"The work of the Commission is complex, but is made up of thoughtful experts who understand and care deeply about this project. Much has been done, and we look forward to demonstrating that progress and future needed work through the release of our interim report in the coming weeks,” the co-chairs wrote in the letter.
This article was updated on Feb. 8 at 5:54 p.m.