On Tuesday, Stanford Residential Education (ResEd) released an online form for submitting input on the renaming of the Serra dorm in Stern Hall. The online submission form is open to Stanford students, alumni, faculty, staff and administrators until Nov. 5.
Stanford announced in September that it would rename two buildings named after Father Junipero Serra, who has drawn sharp criticism for his mistreatment of Native Americans.
Serra residents and staff members will review suggestions submitted through the form later this quarter.
“I think it’s cool that we’ll be the first class with the new name, hopefully,” Serra resident Adam Nayak ’22 said.
The University is aiming to choose a name in line with the Stanford family’s founding vision of having campus features named after people associated with California history. The ResEd announcement added that potential namesakes who have been overlooked thus far in the University’s history will be given special consideration.
According to Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO) chairs Carson Smith ’19 and Will Paisley ’20, the Native community’s involvement in the renaming process will mostly involve the submission of names through the ResEd form and a final review of nominations.
“It wasn’t like the administration [intended to] make this a dual process between the Native community and [the dorm] Serra — they just gave it to Serra,” said Smith. She added that the University approved the process proposed by Serra staff and that it is unclear whether the University would have vetoed a proposal that failed to include the Native community.
“The Serra dorm has had the initiative to reach out to us, and they’re really open to working with us and hearing our narratives,” Paisley said. “There hasn’t been an administrative push to ensure there are conversations about this.”
According to Pat Harris, University spokesperson for Students Affairs, the decision to give Serra residents responsibility for the renaming process was based on historical precedent.
“The Serra wing of Stern Hall was named by students in the 1950s, and several other wings of Stern have been renamed in the years since,” Harris wrote in an email to The Daily, quoting from the Stanford News announcement of the decision to rename.
Serra residents and staff members set their own criteria for who they will consider naming the dorm after, with preference given to individuals who are deceased, have direct ties to the state of California or reflect diversity and inclusion. Dorm residents and staff will also take into account practical considerations such as house traditions and dorm cheers.
Nayak and Devon Holland ’22, another Serra resident, agreed that inclusivity will be vital when selecting the name.
“[It’s important] to make sure no one feels uncomfortable in the space that they’re living,” Holland said. “It would suck to feel uncomfortable in your own home.”
Smith and Paisley agreed that it is important to consider the implications of the new name on the dorm environment.
“If we nominate names of Native people, are we going to be comfortable with those being turned into themes?” Smith asked. “Are going to be comfortable with them being turned into dorm chants … [or] being used for a community that is not predominantly Native?”
The ResEd form provides space for three namesake suggestions along with space to describe how the suggestions match the Stanford family’s initial vision and the naming criteria. Three final names, selected by Serra residents, will be forwarded to Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole, who will then forward her own recommendations to Provost Persis Drell and President Marc Tessier-Lavigne for final consideration.
“Through a series of discussions, research and voting, the ‘Serra’ community will narrow down the list to three names based on each individual’s history and contributions,” Thompson wrote in an email to The Daily. “These names will be shared with the Native/Indigenous, Latinx and Catholic communities for review before submission to … Brubaker-Cole for further consideration.”
Smith expressed appreciation for the degree to which the Serra dorm’s process creates opportunities for different communities to give input on the final decision.
“If a marginalized voice is recognized at the end of this, I think I’d be happy,” she said.
Earlier this month, Brubaker-Cole, Thompson and Serra House Resident Fellow Michelle Reininger met with University leadership to discuss the renaming process.
According to Thompson, Reininger and Serra student staff later invited Muwekma-Tah-Ruk Resident Fellow Shoney Blake and Laura Jones, director of Heritage Services and University archaeologist, to discuss the history of student involvement in renaming campus buildings.
Smith confirmed that the Native community was not officially included in developing the renaming process, but added that a discussion with Reininger and Blake did take place, during which the two called for more concrete mechanisms through which Native students and other communities could express their perspectives on the issue.
“I feel lucky that we got to come [to Stanford] when it’s being changed,” said Nayak. “I’d be kind of uncomfortable knowing the history and wondering what’s being done about it. It’s good that there’s some sort of push right now.”
Smith and Paisley emphasized that the renaming process is only a start, reiterating a point made in a prior statement honoring the University’s initial decision to rename.
“The big point here is that this isn’t the end,” Paisley said. “This is the start of a dialogue that needs to continue and needs to be recognized, because it’s just been too long that our voices have not been heard while this University has functioned for [over] 115 years.”
This article was previously headlined “Serra residents to help rename dorm; Native community questions process.” The headline has been changed to clarify that Native students are supportive of the renaming process in general.
Contact Karen Kurosawa at karen16 ‘at’ stanford.edu.