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Renaming committee to be replaced with new groups after stalemate

Stanford has a street named after Junipero Serra, the founder of the California mission system (ROBERT SHI/The Stanford Daily).

In a “Notes on the Quad” blog post released Thursday, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced that two new committees will replace the Advisory Committee on the Use of Historical Names on Campus, which reached a stalemate in its attempts to formulate principles for renaming campus buildings and landmarks. 

The current committee originally sought to formulate general principles for renaming Stanford landmarks and apply such principles to landmarks named after 18th-century Catholic missionary Junipero Serra. Serra established the California mission system, which harmed and reduced the Native American population. But when that task proved difficult, the committee focused on its goal of broad guidelines.

According to Tessier-Lavigne’s report, one of the new committees will develop general principles. The other new committee will apply the principles generated by the first group to Junipero Serra’s specific case.

The original advisory committee was formed in 2016 in the wake of a student-led movement demanding that the University rename buildings on campus named after Serra. The students also wanted Stanford to change its address, which is currently on Serra Mall.

Tessier-Lavigne said that the original committee reported to him on Monday that they would not be able to come to a consensus on the renaming principles by the end of the quarter, as they originally planned.

Moving forward requires making use of all of the committee’s extensive research and deliberations to date but also asking others, with the benefit of fresh eyes, to complete the process,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote.

This decision comes one day after approximately 40 students participated in the Walk to Rename, marching from Serra House down Serra Mall to deliver letters of discontent to administrators in Main Quad.

“The renaming committee created to discuss Serra’s rightful place on Stanford’s campus has been repeatedly delayed and now no longer seeks to form a recommendation on the street and three campus buildings named after Junipero Serra,” the students’ letter said.

Last spring, Tessier-Lavigne told the renaming committee that they could first formulate the general renaming principles before issuing a recommendation on the Serra issue, if that process change would help them deliberate more quickly. This was criticized by students who hoped the committee would take decisive action.

“I think it’s just a big slap in the face,” Leo Bird ’17, who initiated an ASSU Undergraduate Senate resolution to replace Serra’s name on campus, told The Daily in October after learning of the committee’s focus on the first part of the mandate. 

Tessier-Lavigne acknowledged that his decision to dissolve the original Advisory Committee and establish two new groups may be frustrating to communities seeking results and change. However, he held that consistent principles are critical to the process of renaming, as they establish methodical consistency between various renaming issues that may arise in the future.

“The development of principles to inform decision-making is critical if we are to give members of our community a clear understanding of the basis for decisions that are made,” he wrote in his Thursday post. “I believe it is important for the issues to be addressed in the deliberative manner that comes with having different members of our community reflect and advise on them through the committee process. The work done now will have intergenerational impact and live long after our own time at Stanford.”

 

Contact Courtney Douglas at ccd4 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

Correction note: An earlier version of this article stated that the original Advisory Board was charged with determining whether Serra landmarks should be renamed. In fact, the committee’s mandate was to both formulate general principles and to issue a Serra recommendation.  The Daily regrets this error. 

 

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