Cape Town – UCT’s call for name changes for the buildings, rooms and spaces on campus has been received positively.
Vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said last week that UCT recognised that names had meaning and that, as happened at other institutions around the world, choices were made at certain times in history to honour specific people.
“However, it is also the role of a university to question the extent to which the institution continues to embrace and uphold names, symbols and imagery that uncritically honour those whom history has shown to be dishonourable,” she said.
The process of renaming buildings was an opportune moment to create a UCT environment that was much more inclusive and reflective of diversity, Phakeng said.
“The renaming of Jameson Hall to Sarah Baartman Hall, for example, was a moment in which the university acknowledged the dishonourable history of Leander Starr Jameson while it simultaneously provided an opportunity to recognise the multifaceted struggles and resilience of South African women.
‘‘Another example at UCT is the MR Drennan Anatomy Museum, which currently honours someone who was complicit in obtaining unethically procured human remains. Names such as these will need to change,” she said.
UCT was aiming not only to honour specific individuals, but also to explore the extent to which names may be an indication of the university’s location, research, teaching and social engagement, for example, Huri oaxa (Hoerikwaggo) or Masingene.
Alumni and Master’s student Lorna Houston said she fully supported the call.
“We have already seen positive changes with the naming of buildings. This begins to shift the institutional culture of the university and makes it a friendlier and more accessible space.
“Let us remember that these changes are under way due to the strong student-worker alliance that called for the decolonising of UCT through #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall,” Houston said.
Members of the wider UCT community can submit proposals to the naming of buildings committee.
In this instance, the proposal must be accompanied by a motivation that convincingly makes the case for why the current name should be removed and proposes a new name, and motivates the rationale for adopting the new name.
With the exception of UCT chancellor Graça Machel and the possible exception of a major donor or benefactor proposals for names of living people will not be considered.
Proposals to name a building, residence, room, space or lecture theatre, road or sports facility in honour of a person (including a staff member) who has died would be considered only two years after their death.