In response to student concerns over campus buildings and streets named after Junipero Serra, the 18th century California mission founder who also led violent conversion of many Native Americans to Christianity, Stanford University will form a committee to consider renaming university facilities.
This committee will "establish principles for reconsidering and renaming campus streets and buildings, and to apply those principles 'first and foremost' to places that honor Junipero Serra, whose mixed legacy as the founder of the mission network in California has raised concerns among students," Stanford said in a press release Friday.
President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy announced the committee during Thursday's Faculty Senate meeting. At the same meeting, the Faculty Senate unanimously approved a motion acknowledging a resolution passed last month by both the undergraduate and graduate bodies of Stanford's student government, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), requesting that the university rename streets and buildings that carry the name of Serra out of respect for the indigenous and Native American communities on campus and beyond.
Campus facilities that bear Serra's name include the Serra and Junipero dorms, Serra House (which houses the Clayman Institute for Gender Studies) and Serra Mall, the street that carries Stanford's own address. (Because Stanford cannot change this street name, the ASSU resolution asks the administration to change the university's address. There is also Junipero Serra Boulevard, but that street is not included in the resolution, according to the Stanford Daily.)
David Kennedy, professor emeritus of history, has agreed to chair the committee, which will be composed of faculty, students and staff, the university said.
The Faculty Senate also passed a motion "reaffirming the senate's support for Stanford's commitment to strengthening the life and identity of the Native American community on campus; and expressing its support for critically reflecting on Stanford's historical legacy, including the use of names of people who have been associated with it," the press release states.
In addition to reviewing the names of campus buildings and sites, the senate motion suggested the committee could also review the names of "entities and activities" on campus.
Etchemendy said the university's founders, Jane and Leland Stanford, and its first president, David Starr Jordan, named many campus streets and buildings after historical California figures.
"Not all of those names are names of people that have unblemished histories," Etchemendy said in the press release. "So we want to be able to apply the principles, not just to the Serra name but to other names to determine whether or not they should be changed."
And perhaps Stanford will ultimately consider the blemished history of its own first president, whose name is carried on campus at Jordan Hall and who was an active proponent of eugenics, an early 20th-century science that promoted the reproduction of genetic traits of particular races over others.
Jordan's involvement in the eugenics moment has prompted the creation of a Palo Alto school district committee that, too, will review all school names. In February, the school board unanimously approved this committee after a parent-led petition to rename Jordan gained strong support in the community. The renaming effort was broadened in light of the fact that at least two other school namesakes Lewis Terman and Ellwood Cubberley were also proponents of eugenics.
The district is currently seeking applicants for the Citizen Advisory Committee for Renaming PAUSD Schools (RSC), which is expected to deliver recommendations to the board by Dec. 31, 2016. The group will be made up of four parents of current students, four members of the community at large, up to four alumni, two administrators, four faculty and staff and up to four students, according to the district.
Applicants must either reside or work within the boundaries of the school district, or a non-resident must have either graduated from the district or served as an employee in the district for a minimum of five years. The committee will be selected on or before April 11, according to the school district.
For more information and to obtain an application, email Monica Sanchez Lopez at email@example.com or by calling 650-329-3737. Applications may also be found online at the district home page: pausd.org. Applications are due by March 28.