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.