News

Stanford to remove David Starr Jordan's name while hoping not to erase his 'complex' legacy

Board of Trustees approves renaming recommendation from president, committee

On Oct. 7, Stanford University announced plans to remove the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

Stanford University will be removing the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets, citing his leadership in the eugenics movement.

The university's Board of Trustees, acting on a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, approved a committee's direction to immediately remove Jordan's name from Jordan Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology; Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars, near Panama Street and Campus Drive West; and Jordan Way in the Stanford Medical Center area.

The university also hopes to not completely erase his place in campus history but to provide a "complete view of his complex history, which includes not only his seminal leadership as the university's founding president but also his parallel leadership in promoting eugenics," an Oct. 7 announcement reads.

Stanford plans to add an informational plaque in Jordan Hall — whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building — and create additional historical displays and educational programming to document his "complex" legacy.

"David Starr Jordan made monumental contributions to the founding and development of Stanford, which are rightly celebrated," Tessier-Lavigne said. "But, as the committee reported, Jordan was an equally powerful and vigorous driving force for beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the values of our campus community, and he leveraged his position as president to advance them. Those two facts were central to my decision to endorse the committee's recommendations, as was the fact that the actions recommended by the committee do not seek to erase Jordan's legacy, but rather to put it in proper perspective and to recognize his history on our campus in new ways."

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Jordan was president from 1891 to 1913. The university's announcement details his work as a naturalist, ichthyologist and innovative educator before going into the fact that he promoted eugenics, including by using his platform as Stanford president to advocate for policies that ultimately led to forced sterilizations, the university said.

Stanford also plans to move a statue of Jordan's mentor, Louis Agassiz, from Jordan Hall to another location on campus "where it can be given appropriate context." Agassiz was a naturalist who also promoted polygenism, a belief that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal.

"In David Starr Jordan's history, we identified an unsettling connection between his advocacy for eugenics and his leadership at Stanford, and strong evidence that his influence encouraged students to put these beliefs into practice," committee chair and law professor Bernadette Meyler said in the announcement. "But Jordan's and Agassiz's impact is not limited to the past, because to this day their beliefs continue to cast a shadow on our campus."

In 2018, the Palo Alto school district renamed its Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, spurred by a middle schooler's book report on Jordan's eugenics advocacy.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra after two alumnae: Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, a psychologist credited with creating the field of Native American mental health.

Debra Satz, whose responsibilities as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences include the Department of Psychology, will be in charge of the process of determining a new name for Jordan Hall. She will bring her recommendation to the president and provost.

Stanford said it will remove the Jordan Hall lettering from the building "as soon as practicable," along with the Agassiz statue, and the building will be referred to by its number in the Main Quad, Building 420.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Stanford to remove David Starr Jordan's name while hoping not to erase his 'complex' legacy

Board of Trustees approves renaming recommendation from president, committee

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 8, 2020, 8:44 am

Stanford University will be removing the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets, citing his leadership in the eugenics movement.

The university's Board of Trustees, acting on a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, approved a committee's direction to immediately remove Jordan's name from Jordan Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology; Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars, near Panama Street and Campus Drive West; and Jordan Way in the Stanford Medical Center area.

The university also hopes to not completely erase his place in campus history but to provide a "complete view of his complex history, which includes not only his seminal leadership as the university's founding president but also his parallel leadership in promoting eugenics," an Oct. 7 announcement reads.

Stanford plans to add an informational plaque in Jordan Hall — whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building — and create additional historical displays and educational programming to document his "complex" legacy.

"David Starr Jordan made monumental contributions to the founding and development of Stanford, which are rightly celebrated," Tessier-Lavigne said. "But, as the committee reported, Jordan was an equally powerful and vigorous driving force for beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the values of our campus community, and he leveraged his position as president to advance them. Those two facts were central to my decision to endorse the committee's recommendations, as was the fact that the actions recommended by the committee do not seek to erase Jordan's legacy, but rather to put it in proper perspective and to recognize his history on our campus in new ways."

Jordan was president from 1891 to 1913. The university's announcement details his work as a naturalist, ichthyologist and innovative educator before going into the fact that he promoted eugenics, including by using his platform as Stanford president to advocate for policies that ultimately led to forced sterilizations, the university said.

Stanford also plans to move a statue of Jordan's mentor, Louis Agassiz, from Jordan Hall to another location on campus "where it can be given appropriate context." Agassiz was a naturalist who also promoted polygenism, a belief that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal.

"In David Starr Jordan's history, we identified an unsettling connection between his advocacy for eugenics and his leadership at Stanford, and strong evidence that his influence encouraged students to put these beliefs into practice," committee chair and law professor Bernadette Meyler said in the announcement. "But Jordan's and Agassiz's impact is not limited to the past, because to this day their beliefs continue to cast a shadow on our campus."

In 2018, the Palo Alto school district renamed its Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, spurred by a middle schooler's book report on Jordan's eugenics advocacy.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra after two alumnae: Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, a psychologist credited with creating the field of Native American mental health.

Debra Satz, whose responsibilities as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences include the Department of Psychology, will be in charge of the process of determining a new name for Jordan Hall. She will bring her recommendation to the president and provost.

Stanford said it will remove the Jordan Hall lettering from the building "as soon as practicable," along with the Agassiz statue, and the building will be referred to by its number in the Main Quad, Building 420.

Comments

Kevin A.
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:24 am
Kevin A., Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:24 am
9 people like this

And there’s always the mystery of Jane’s murder hanging over Jordan’s period.


More clueless rewriting of history
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:52 am
More clueless rewriting of history, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:52 am
38 people like this

It is getting ridiculous how people are rewriting history so that everyone in the past was suppose to play by todays standards and norms. Social norms and behavior were very different 200 or 2000 years ago. The study of eugenics was a topical and interesting subject at a time when people were interested in genetics and how people developed. And of course there were problems and abuses.

Too bad we can't see into the future (if humans survive our destruction of the planet) and see how the current crop of humans will be judged on their use of cloning and genetic design or even how we will be view for slaughtering innocent animals to eat them. You never know what standards future generations will judge you by, as is evidenced by todays denial of how humans have behaved since the dawn of time on so many issues.

To bad institutions that are suppose to teach critical thinking (major universities) now just bend to the latest trends and fads and are willing to tear down their history rather than support the idea that people were in good faith searching for answers in their own time period and in a way that worked for them at the time.


Cancelled
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 8, 2020 at 12:32 pm
Cancelled, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 12:32 pm
46 people like this

Jordan = Cancelled.

As a Stanford grad, I would've hoped my alma mater would do better than cave to the PC cancelling and renaming du jour. Teach history in its appropriate context, learn from it, don't erase it. Lest you too find yourself "cancelled" and erased in the future for something deemed perfectly acceptable today.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm
6 people like this

"The past was alterable. The past never had been altered. Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia."


Barron Parker Too
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2020 at 1:26 pm
Barron Parker Too, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 1:26 pm
31 people like this

@Cancelling hit it on the nail. This is the same lunacy that calls for destruction of statues of the founding fathers of this nation, most of whom were from Virginia, because they had slaves.

The same PC that calls for the cancelling of living writers like J. K. Rowling, who had the audacity to state the scientific truth that there are two biological sexes and when you are born every one of your several trillion cells marks you as one of them.

This will not end until people stand up to the woke mob and insist that we respect our history and reject this epidemic of cancellation.


rsmithjr
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 8, 2020 at 4:24 pm
rsmithjr, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 4:24 pm
6 people like this

History is not being rewritten by this, merely revealed. Jordan's activities are well documented, first of all by him.

"Cancelling" would be removing information about Jordan. That is precisely what is NOT happening here according to this article.




Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 8, 2020 at 4:43 pm
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 4:43 pm
32 people like this

Eugenics was initially a study of genetics passed down from a family tree in an effort to reduce certain birth defects including mental retardation (or what was commonly referred to at the time as 'feeble mindedness').

The problem that eventually arose was when these scientists attempted to associate eugenics with perceived societal defects such as poverty, alcoholism etc. which are oftentimes the product of social background.

They studied generations of derelicts and mistakenly attributed these characteristics with genes rather than environment & their theories were eventually dispelled.

Unfortunately these 'scientific' studies led to forced abortions, sterilizations and while in prison, Hitler came to embrace eugenics as part of his 'master plan'.

As a result, the study of human eugenics became discredited as a scientific endeavor.



AlexDeLarge
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:40 pm
AlexDeLarge, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2020 at 11:40 pm
2 people like this

@ Lee Forest, you are CORRECT SIR! Fortunately today we have CRISPR technology.


Steve Dabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 9, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Steve Dabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2020 at 6:10 pm
3 people like this

Well, my esteem for Stanford just dropped several points!


Lee Forrest
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 10, 2020 at 7:14 am
Lee Forrest, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2020 at 7:14 am
6 people like this

>"...like J. K. Rowling, who had the audacity to state the scientific truth that there are two biological sexes and when you are born every one of your several trillion cells marks you as one of them."

^ Curious....so are the T/transgender & Q/questioning factions within the larger LGBTQ grouping merely embracing or adhering to a 'state of mind'?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.