SALT LAKE CITY – A Brigham Young University graduate is petitioning the school to name a new campus building after a woman.
Kristi Thomas Boyce says a female name on the university’s new Life Sciences Building would encourage more women to study fields like science, technology, engineering and math, where they are often underrepresented.
“For me, that was never really a path I considered even though I loved math and even though I loved chemistry. I took those classes in high school and I had a lot of fun in them and I did well. But then as soon as I got to college, for whatever reasons, it never struck me as an option,” Boyce told KSL-TV.
Her online petition in support of the idea on change.org had nearly 1,500 signatures by Friday afternoon. She suggests four women who could fit the bill: Jane Manning James, the first documented black Mormon pioneer to arrive in Utah, or one of three pioneering 19th century doctors, Martha Hughes Cannon, Ellis Reynolds Shipp and Romania B. Pratt Penrose.
There are more than 300 buildings on the BYU campus and nearly 50 are named for men, the Daily Herald of Provo reported. Two are named for women.
University spokeswoman Carrie Jenkins said the school doesn’t object to the idea, but most buildings constructed over the last 20 years have been named for their function rather than a person. Two exceptions were buildings that were torn down and rebuilt with the original names.
“It’s hoped that the name of a building will inspire the individuals who work or study inside that building,” Jenkins told the Daily Herald.
Boyce acknowledged the issue isn’t unique to BYU.
“I don’t think things are the way they are now because of malicious intent or systemic plot to oppress women at BYU,” she told KSL-TV.
Boyce said she hopes that the university does more to increase the visibility for women in underrepresented fields whether or not her idea becomes reality.
BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the petition comes amid debate about the role of women in the Mormon faith.
Earlier this month, members of a Mormon women’s group joined men for the first time at regional church buildings across the U.S. to watch a live broadcast of a male priesthood meeting. Entry had previously been denied to members of the group Ordain Women. The group marched onto church property in downtown Salt Lake City’s Temple Square, causing a stir and rebukes from church leaders.
Kate Kelly, the founder of the group, was excommunicated in June.