Stanford renaming committee seeks input from community

Group looking for guiding principles for naming landmarks after historical figures

A Stanford University committee charged with establishing principles around the potential renaming of streets and buildings on campus is seeking input and suggestions from the university community.

The committee, made up of eight faculty members and students, was formed in March by President John Hennessy and Provost John Etchemendy in response to student concerns about several buildings and streets named after Junipero Serra, the 18th century California mission founder whose conversion of many Native Americans to Christianity has been criticized.

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.

The committee is now looking to the broader university committee for opinions about Junipero Serra, as well as suggestions for general principles that might help guide the university in its consideration of naming landmarks after historical figures.

Questions the committee hopes community members can help consider, the university said, include: "What standards should be applied to people whose accomplishments have been honored but whose legacies have been called into question?" and "How can the process of reconsideration be applied consistently across different naming opportunities?"

Members of the university community can share feedback with the committee on its website through June 6.

The group will consider Serra's history and "try to articulate more general principles" about facility names over the summer, according to the university.

The committee's chair, Stanford historian David Kennedy, said the group hopes to identify criteria in October and announce their recommendations during the winter quarter.

The committee has also looked at how other colleges and universities have handled concerns about facility names, the university said, from Princeton University, where students challenged the legacy of former university and U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, to Oxford University, where members of the campus community pushed for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a prominent British imperialist.

Community outreach was critical in all of the schools' processes, said Laura Jones, university archaeologist and director of heritage services, who staffs the renaming committee.

"Everything we have learned from other colleges and universities that have struggled with similar issues confirms that hearing the community's voice is critical," she said in the university press release.

Locally, a new Palo Alto Unified School District committee is reviewing all school names after a parent-led petition to rename Jordan Middle School gained traction in the community. Jordan's namesake, David Starr Jordan — also the first president of Stanford — was an active proponent of eugenics, an early 20th-century science that promoted the reproduction of genetic traits of particular races over others.

The renaming effort in Palo Alto was broadened in light of the fact that at least two other school-facility namesakes, Lewis Terman and Ellwood Cubberley, were also proponents of eugenics.

The school district committee began meeting in April and is expected to issue recommendations to the school board by Dec. 31. Its next meeting is this coming Monday, May 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View its meeting schedule, agendas and minutes here.


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19 people like this
Posted by Boaty McBoatface
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2016 at 9:50 am

In light of my naming success of a Government boat by the British public, may I be the first to offer my suggestions.

Streety McStreetface

Schooly McSchoolface

Buildingy McBuilding

Campus McCampus Place

I suggest that these names would be amongst the very few that some future generation would not be able to find anything to criticize. They might even add some humor to the process.

Boaty McBoatface. Web Link

15 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2016 at 11:17 am

"Political Correctness" as driven by the progressive left is ruining our country as well as others around the world. Here's a guiding principle for the Stanford committee charged with renaming the streets and buildings around campus....Nobody's perfect. Get over it and yourselves already.

7 people like this
Posted by sidwell
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2016 at 11:19 am

Anyone else recall when the discussion was renaming the athletic team at Stanford? One strong substitute for "Stanford Indians" was suggested as "Stanford Robber Barons". 509u5

24 people like this
Posted by jlange
a resident of Stanford
on May 18, 2016 at 12:04 pm

I find this whole argument exasperating along with this idea that we're renaming buildings, etc. because of the "political incorrectness" of actions taken years ago as judged by today's "standards".

Don't any of you realize that today's good deeds may be deemed "politically incorrect" 100 years from now????? And undone by unforeseen judgements about issues no one even considers to be an issue today?????

Does it ever occur to you that somebody (ie, super megarich person) who donates $500 Bn to Stanford to get a building, etc. named after them might not even take the first step to make a donation today given the likelihood that some group of children 200 years from now might take that all away?????

Seriously, kids, if you want to do some good in this world, devote your efforts to the problems we have today, like world hunger, like racism, etc. rather than attempting to re-write history by whitewashing over those "microaggressions" or "polical incorrectness" of old....

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on May 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Leland Stanford himself was deeply involved in the use and abuse of Chinese laborers in building his great railroad.
That creates a problem; fortunately the school is named after his son, not him.
Many if not most giants of industry, politics and education made some choices that we would fault today. Animals are the best choice, and geologic features are also food; academic subjects can also be used. However, prospective donors and recent "named" donors are going to be made rather uncomfortable. There may be contractual issues to overcome. That's life.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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