The following comes from a March 4 Stanford Daily article by Sarah Wishingrad:
In early February, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution requesting that the University rename all places on campus that bear the name of Junípero Serra, a Catholic missionary who colonized California for Spain in the 18th century and created the California mission system. Both the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the Faculty Senate have since passed the resolution, officially supporting the effort for renaming. Ultimately, the decision now rests with the administration.
Under consideration are four places on campus carrying Serra’s namesake: Serra and Junipero Dorms, freshman dorms in Stern and Wilbur, respectively; Serra House, which houses the Clayman Institute for Gender Studies; and Serra Mall, the street on campus that is Stanford’s official address. Because Stanford does not have the authority to rename Serra Mall, the resolution seeks to change the University’s official address. Junipero Serra Boulevard is also named after Serra, but is not included in the proposal.
Proponents of the resolution argue that Serra’s name deserves to be removed from campus for his role in overseeing the Spanish mission system, which converted Native Americans to Catholicism, suppressed their indigenous culture and significantly reduced the native population through disease and violence. Three of the missions under Serra’s purview were the San Jose, San Francisco and Santa Clara missions, which housed members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, who originally lived on the land that Stanford now occupies.
Leo Bird ’17 introduced the resolution in the ASSU senate. Bird, who prefers to be referred to by the gender neutral “they,” said that they were motivated by what they saw as the discrepancy between Serra’s actions toward Native Californians and his legacy on Stanford’s campus.
Gladis Xiloj ’17, the co-chair for the Stanford American Indian Association, said that, for her, the resolution is “personal.”
“Several of my friends within the Native community are being directly affected by this emotionally,” Xiloj said. “And as someone who wants to support Native students on campus … it is also my responsibility to be very aware of what’s happening, and [support] the resolution.”
There have been many faculty who have been involved with the efforts as well, but the resolution was largely spearheaded by students.
“This is really a student-driven initiative,” said C. Matthew Snipp, a professor of sociology and former director of the Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity Program, who has been involved in the process of renaming Serra. “Which I think is actually appropriate given that it is a dorm.”
A number of students have expressed their concerns over the resolution, particularly the potential precedent renaming Serra might set. The Stanford Review has published several articles condemning the resolution.
“The resolution does not uphold [the Senate’s] duty in a particularly morally consistent way,” said Harry Elliot ’18, editor-in-chief of The Stanford Review. “It lists some harms and provides some plausible reasons why the name should be removed from campus… without providing nuances to the difference between, say, removing Jordan’s name from Jordan Hall and removing Serra’s from the various streets,” Elliot continued. David Starr Jordan, the first president of Stanford, was a proponent of eugenics.
Elliot expressed concerns about the objections of the Catholic community on campus, given that Serra is a saint in the Catholic Church, but Bird said that they were able to engage with the Catholic community in productive dialogue. Bird said that many members of the Stanford community aren’t opposed to the issue, but were simply unaware of Serra’s legacy or why some people might object to it.