Stanford to replace some, not all campus references to Serra

Board of trustees approves committee's recommendation

Stanford University will rename the street that carries the university's official address and two buildings named for Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-century founder of the California mission system, but retain Serra Street, the university announced Thursday.

The university board of trustees approved the recommendations of a committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni that has been wrestling with the issue of renaming campus facilities named for a controversial figure — as have many other colleges, universities and school districts across the country, including the Palo Alto school district.

While Serra played a critical role in the development of modern California, his name is also associated with violence against Native Americans, including forced labor, forced living arrangements and corporal punishment, the university noted in a press release. Serra played no direct role in Stanford's founding.

The committee's recommendation to rename some but not all campus features reflects "the complex nature of Serra's legacy and his lack of a direct role in the university's own history," the press release states.

"The committee called for renaming several features on campus that recognize someone who had no direct role in Stanford's history and lived a century before the university was even founded, yet whose role as the recognized leader of the mission system provides an acute reminder to our Native American community of the profound impact of the mission system on indigenous peoples," Jeff Raikes, chair of the Stanford board of trustees, said in the release.

"But the committee also recommended retaining historical reference to Serra and the mission system on campus, as they shaped a significant part of California's history and influenced the Stanfords as they designed the campus. The committee reasoned that this second goal could be achieved alongside the first by retaining names on campus features that are less salient."

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne has recommended renaming Serra Mall, the pedestrian and bicycle area at the front of campus that serves as the university's address, after Stanford co-founder Jane Stanford. He will seek approval from Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Service to rename the street "Jane Stanford Way."

Two buildings -- the Serra dormitory in Stern Hall and Serra House, which houses the Clayman Institute for Gender Research -- will also be renamed, though the new names have yet to be determined. The university plans to select a new name for the dorm after seeking feedback from students this fall and consult with faculty on a new name for Serra House.

Serra Street, which is open to vehicle traffic and begins at the eastern end of Serra Mall and runs from there to El Camino Real, is an "ordinary street," the committee reasoned. As such, it does "not have the same symbolic salience as buildings or a central focal point of campus like Serra Mall," the committee wrote in a report.

"Furthermore, retaining a street with the Serra name avoids erasing the university's symbolic connection with Serra and, in conjunction with a plaque or other marker, can assist in reminding the campus community and the larger world of this aspect of the university's past."

The university plans to develop new signage and "other educational support to address the multidimensional legacy of Serra and the mission system in California," a renaming FAQ states.

The group also recommended that Stanford seek opportunities to name streets and other campus features after people of all genders and ethnicities, including Native Americans and people of color, and "that it consider other ideas for mitigation, including academic and community-wide education programs."

Stanford noted that Junipero Serra Boulevard, which runs along the southwest side of the Stanford campus, is a Santa Clara County road and was not part of the renaming deliberations. There is also a Junipero dormitory in Wilbur Hall, but it is named for the Spanish word for the juniper tree. The dorm will not be renamed, though Stanford said it will look for opportunities to "clarify the meaning of its name."

This committee was the second devoted to renaming at Stanford. An initial committee was asked to develop principles for considering renaming campus features generally. The principles, which were circulated for community comment and then accepted by Tessier-Lavigne, include considerations such as the strength and clarity of the historical evidence, the person's role in the university's history, the centrality of a person's offensive behavior to the person's life as a whole and the university community's identification with the named feature.

The first committee "set a very high bar for renaming a campus feature, recommending it only when the person for which it is named engaged in wrongful behavior such that 'retaining the name is inconsistent with the university's integrity or is harmful to its research and teaching missions and inclusiveness,'" Stanford said.

The second committee then was asked to apply the principles to the case of Serra.

In their final report, the committee members acknowledge that their final proposal — an "accommodation of competing values" — may not satisfy everyone. The group believes its recommendation, however, "far from erasing history, calls on the university to openly address and reckon with it."

This spring, the Palo Alto school board voted to rename two of its middle schools due to their namesakes' leadership in the eugenics movement. Both former namesakes were affiliated with Stanford: David Starr Jordan (after whom Jordan Hall is named at Stanford) was the university's founding president and Lewis Terman was a Stanford psychologist who created a prominent IQ test.


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20 people like this
Posted by student
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 13, 2018 at 7:06 pm

Is "forced labor" supposed to be different from "slavery"?

61 people like this
Posted by The Name Game
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 13, 2018 at 7:22 pm

If we're going to go the full PC route, Stanford University should also change its name based on the subhuman treatment of the Chinese [portion removed] Leland Stanford enlisted to do the heavy dynamite work for his railroad tunnels.

He considered the Chinese highly expendable & far cheaper to pay than their white counterparts who also worked on the Transcontinental Railroad.

28 people like this
Posted by what a bunch of blather
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 13, 2018 at 7:28 pm

where do we stop ?, renaming Washington DC? how about all the schools and streets named after JFK a known philanderer who's brother killed an innocent women. PC gone amok...

12 people like this
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2018 at 10:02 pm

QUOTE:If we're going to go the full PC route, Stanford University should also change its name...

Fair enough as the venerable Indian mascot was replaced decades ago.

Class participation what should Stanford University's new name be?

2 people like this
Posted by Mogwai
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2018 at 8:30 am

Dtsnford obviously thiught the ssme as serra about ayivr americans and chinese. Take his name (and son) off the school...hypocrites

18 people like this
Posted by La Raza
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2018 at 9:05 am

This is Racist! Jane Lathrop Stanford was a privileged white female. Junipero Serra was a great spanish explorer and Catholic priest, who entered this country illegally, and overcame great adversity. We in Latino community will not stand for this blatant act of Racism and antisemitism behavior by the faculty of Stanford.

20 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 14, 2018 at 10:29 am

Annette is a registered user.

@RDavis - I am not a fan of the whole renaming exercise but since you ask, I will toss Robber Baron U into the mix. Would that offend anyone?

10 people like this
Posted by Slavery Sam S
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 14, 2018 at 11:50 am

"where do we stop ?"

Where do you think the line should be? Not at slavery, murder, etc..?

Then, where?

10 people like this
Posted by Rev. Beecham
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 14, 2018 at 2:08 pm

>> Junipero Serra was a great spanish explorer and Catholic priest, who entered this country illegally, and overcame great adversity. We in Latino community will not stand for this blatant act of Racism and antisemitism behavior by the faculty of Stanford.

Yes. Junipero Serra entered California 'illegally' at the expense of the native California Indians. He then tried to 'colonize' them through brutal beatings and forced labor in an effort to make these indigenous people both good Catholics and second class Spanish citizens.

Curious. Where does antisemitism on the part of the Stanford faculty enter into the picture?

3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Posted by R. Davis, a resident of Crescent Park

>> QUOTE:If we're going to go the full PC route, Stanford University should also change its name...

>> Class participation what should Stanford University's new name be?

How about we name it after a 15 year old who sadly died of typhoid?

Oh wait ...

"Leland Stanford Sr. told his wife that "the children of California shall be our children."[3][4][5] To honor their son upon returning to the United States, the Stanfords devoted their fortune to a memorial in his name, Leland Stanford Junior University. The university opened its doors in 1891."

Web Link.

Web Link

11 people like this
Posted by lan
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2018 at 3:32 pm

Marching towards that perfect human being. Just as Palo Alto seeks perfection in all of its leaders; so does Stanford University, but with a modicum of sensibility.

A warning for all of you Palo Altans who seek to have something named after you -- be sure you have no ghosts in your closets, you have committed no misdeeds, your last name is not similar to anyone else who has done something 'wrong', and that you have been nothing but kind, generous, open hearted, and magnanimous in all of your thoughts and actions in both your professional and personal lives, because if not, you will be found out and deemed imperfect and guilty of sin. The historical context you are currently living in will not save you. The fact that you are human will not save you.

1 person likes this
Posted by rick
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2018 at 12:23 am

rick is a registered user.

@Annette, most here don't remember that Robber Barons was indeed the student choice in a 1975 referendum vote (The Stanford Daily, page 1, Dec 5, 1975 (searchable online)).

17 people like this
Posted by R.Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2018 at 8:47 am

R.Davis is a registered user.

The movement to remove certain historical references has been picking up steam over the past couple of years, perhaps most notably in the South where the Confederate flag & various statues of southern Civil War generals have been removed from public view.

Most recently & right here in the SF Bay Area, the "Early Days" statue depicting the subjugation of Native Americans was recently removed from its site near the SF City Hall & placed in storage.

Perceptions of history can change over time & since history is usually written by the victors (or the dominant population at a given time), there is oftentimes a biased approach towards certain portrayals & recognitions.

As far as Stanford University is concerned, I imagine that the 'old-timers' & traditionalists will be reluctant to any changes along the way as there are countless alumni who still refer to the team mascot as the 'Indians'.

Drawing a line between the sensitivities of those offended & regional/traditional acknowledgements will prove to be a never-ending battle.

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

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