Stanford University reboots renaming process | News | Palo Alto Online |


Stanford University reboots renaming process

Two new groups to address naming principles, Junipero Serra

Update: The university announced the new committee's membership on Jan. 19. Paul Brest, professor emeritus and former dean of Stanford Law School, will chair the group.

A Stanford University committee convened to examine the issue of renaming campus facilities, spurred by concerns over buildings and streets named after California mission founder Junipero Serra, has been unable to reach agreement on its work.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced Thursday that the group, which his predecessor convened in 2016, has said it is unable to meet an initial goal of issuing recommendations by the end of this quarter. He plans to create two new committees to finish the process.

The advisory committee was originally asked to recommend principles to guide future decisions about renaming and also if any existing names should be replaced given those principles. To expedite the process, Tessier-Lavigne said he suggested in March that the group focus on forming principles first, then apply them to the specific case of Serra.

Serra's mixed legacy as the founder of the mission network who also led violent conversion of many Native Americans to Christianity raised concerns among students in recent years.

Frustrated by stalled progress on the issue, a group of students participated in a "Walk to Rename," protest on Wednesday, marching from Serra House down Serra Mall to deliver letters to administrators in the Main Quad, the Stanford Daily reported.

In a blog post, Tessier-Lavigne said he met with the students that evening.

"The issues are complex, and the going has not been easy," Tessier-Lavigne wrote. "The committee reported to me on Monday that it has been unable to reach agreement about the principles, despite committed efforts by the members and extensive further discussion."

He plans to appoint faculty and students to two new groups in December. The first group will tackle the principles, and the second will use them to make a recommendation on Serra. The "firm aim" is to complete the process by the end of the school year.

Acknowledging that the Serra question "has deep personal and historical resonance for many members of our community," articulating specific principles as a rationale for this and future naming cases is critical, Tessier-Lavigne wrote.

He said he will be scheduling additional office hours in November and December for people to provide input on the process directly to him.

The Stanford renaming effort follows many at other college campuses and schools across the country, including locally at the Palo Alto school district. The school board voted in March to rename David Starr Jordan and Terman middle schools given their namesakes' promotion of eugenics, a 20th century movement that believed in the superiority of particular races over others.

The committee of students, parents and staff asked to examine the issue in Palo Alto Unified also struggled to find common ground on the issue, but ultimately made a majority recommendation to rename the schools.

Both men have deep roots at Stanford. Jordan Hall is named after Stanford's first president. Lewis Terman was a Stanford psychologist who created a prominent IQ test.


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45 people like this
Posted by Huh really
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 19, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Hmm, how's that reflect on PAUSD? Stanford struggles to come up with sound principles, but PAUSD barges ahead. Helpful that McGee stacked the committee so the outcome was predetermined and the school board is dominated by hard-core liberals (Dibrienza - ugh). Historical thoughtfulness, intellectual honesty - not so much.

5 people like this
Posted by Gregg L. Friedman MD
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Interesting Story. Thank you for publishing it. By Gregg L. Friedman MD

60 people like this
Posted by Frank now
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Ahh we must be politically correct, the hell with history, the liberals must be appeased!

22 people like this
Posted by Snow flakage
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm

[Post removed.]

75 people like this
Posted by What a waste
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 19, 2017 at 5:36 pm

What a waste of time and energy on issues like this. Don't we have more more important things to focus on. One reason I stopped donating to pausd with the renaming of Jordan and terman. I guess it makes all politically correct folks feel better , but where does this stop?? Scary.

16 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

Renaming PAUSD schools is fine, but a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, especially given our current budget crisis.

I assume doing so will not be free, and I feel our money can be better spent on educational programs for the children.

4 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 20, 2017 at 11:48 am

ah yes, deflected self-responsibility.
aren't we smart aren't we wise
aren't we better than them or then
do you like me yet
I sure hope so
Arriaga University is so special

26 people like this
Posted by Life long Stanford fan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 20, 2017 at 12:59 pm

The continuing effort to rename everything seems like a waste of energy to me. There are so many bigger problems that need help...What is acceptable today probably won't be in 50 years and the cycle will continue. I remember when the Indian was replaced by the Cardinal and I think the runner up in the naming contest was "Robber Barron's". Stanford itself might have to be renamed if this keeps up. The color Cardinal will likely be offense to Cal alum or other groups and have to be replaced too?

13 people like this
Posted by John Jacobs
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2017 at 1:15 pm

Ah- more sour grapes. The process to rename schools in P.A.U.S.D. was a democratic one, done thoughtfully over an extended period of time by a committed group of community members. How about graciously accepting the decision that has been made without the usual Palo Alto name calling? Glad to see Stanford is willing to "keep at it," despite the difficulty of the challenge.

23 people like this
Posted by Dave Cerf
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Isn't it interesting how upset people got over the Jordan and Terman names because they were eugenists, but no one seems to be concerned about the presence of Planned Parenthood and its founder, Margaret Sanger, a eugenics supporter who attempted to eliminate African-Americans via sterilization. Guess that was OK.

29 people like this
Posted by Oscar
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm

@John Jacobs the P.A.U.S.D process was done by a committee stacked in favor of renaming. That's not sour grapes, just the facts. That was the way McGee operated, oh well. The community was strongly against it. You call that "democratic"; I call it "political" - McGee playing to his base. Thank goodness some of his other ideas were stopped.

22 people like this
Posted by What a waste
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm

@john Jacobs
The process to rename Jordan and terman was far from "democratic" . The board did survey the public about renaming but somehow forgot to include a simple question in that survey SHOULD schools be renamed. They only asked HOW threy should be renamed. I guess they didn't want to hear feedback on the former.

By the way I'm insulted paly high has a Viking as a mascot. How racist to portray Scandinavians as warriors and plllagers!! Lol!!!!

10 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2017 at 7:45 pm

The web has made history rather flexible and terribly vulnerable - easy to re-write to suit as long as those who control the web agree amongst themselves on the proper themes and presentation. Except for correcting inaccuracies, it’s a bad business for each generation to continuously distort the past by re-stating what is meant relative to today’s values. Some people of notable achievement may have parts of their lives that are not so notable. Who decides. Who among us is pure enough to have a street or a school building named after them? Is there anyone in today’s pop culture or politics pure enough to withstand the scrutiny of the current forms of neo-mcCarthy accusations? Those who knows Stanford’s biography would surely want to change that institutions name. It does seem a shame and an awful waste of effort. Maybe a simple note could be added to a plaque explaining ‘we took his/her money because that was the only way they would give it but we really thought they were creeps’

8 people like this
Posted by Former resident
a resident of another community
on Nov 21, 2017 at 6:30 am

Hmmm. Have they considered how the Stanfords treated the Chinese immigrants?

6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Mom (former)
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2017 at 7:30 pm

I don't miss Palo Alto at all. So much well-educated, self-satisfied, self-righteous smugness and hostility. Good riddance!

Like this comment
Posted by Curb bender
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2017 at 8:02 pm

[Post removed.]

26 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

This is good news. President Tessier-Lavigne has restructured the process for considering renaming campus facilities because the original committee was at an impasse. The students’ “Walk to Rename” was an appropriate action to remind the university of its commitment to address those concerns, and the administration’s pledge to reinvigorate the effort is, in my opinion, the correct response. We should all wish them success in what has proved to be a challenging endeavor.

More: Web Link

11 people like this
Posted by Sea Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2017 at 5:07 am

What’s in a name?

Leave it the way it is.
Work on more important thing of our lifetime CANCER.
Don’t waste energy on wrong thing like renaming Serra drive.


2 people like this
Posted by Indictments - over 100
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 22, 2017 at 12:08 pm

What’s in a name?

Agreed. Let's call it by the original name, National Airport, instead of the renamed Reagan National.

Most criminal presidency ever. Until this one catches it.

The whole naming thing.....

Like this comment
Posted by Christian Clifford
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

Read an opposing viewpoint at Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 25, 2017 at 2:03 am

As far as Serra is concerned, the history is there. California's history after Serra and then after the Gold Rush can't be changed. It won't be buried nor forgotten by changing names.

So these righteous people seem to have carefully chosen to spend a lot of effort and emotion on something that seems harmless. But what happened to California's native Americans is happening now to native peoples in many places in the world with the destructiveness of modern war instead of plagues. What happened to the Yazidi people in Iraq under ISIS is qualifying, to say the least. But it would require more work than changing a few street signs.

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