News

Jordan Hall carries the name of Stanford's controversial founding president. A new committee will consider requests to remove it.

Faculty, student group press for renaming

Despite Stanford University's removal of some campus references to Junipero Serra and the neighboring Palo Alto school district's decision to rename David Starr Jordan Middle School in 2018, Stanford's Jordan Hall, also named after the university's founding president and a eugenicist, remained unchanged.

On Tuesday, however, the university announced a committee will consider faculty and student requests to remove Jordan's name from the campus building.

Jordan Hall houses the Department of Psychology, whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building. They also asked that a statue outside the building be removed. The statue depicts Louis Agassiz, who Stanford described as a "renowned scholar of natural history, (and) promoted polygenism, which holds that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal."

"David Starr Jordan and Louis Agassiz, by virtue of their racist ideologies and practices, are incompatible with Stanford's values on initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning," the professors wrote in a March 9 letter to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. "The name and statue were in place long before the Psychology Department came to occupy the building, and we do not identify with either of the features."

The letter notes the "precedent set" by the Palo Alto school district by renaming Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School after a contentious debate in 2018.

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"Featuring Jordan's name on one of the main buildings of Stanford's entrance i) tarnishes our national and international reputations, ii) undermines Stanford's values of initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning, and iii) prevents staff, students, and faculty, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., minority, immigrant, low-income), from developing a sense of inclusion and belonging at Stanford," they wrote.

Psychology doctoral students also support the renaming of Jordan Hall. They reported in a survey that Jordan's name and the Agassiz statute elicit negative feelings, such as anger, discomfort, disrespect, distress and hurt, and that removing the two would increase positive feelings such as comfort, optimism, trust and credibility, the professors said in their letter.

The Stanford Eugenics History Project, founded by undergraduate student Ben Maldonado, asked the university in February to rename Jordan Hall. Maldonado has created a website devoted to research about the history of eugenics at Stanford and Jordan's complicated legacy.

"Acknowledgement of both Jordan's and Stanford's role in the rise and spread of eugenics in the United States is the first step that must be taken by Stanford University: to grapple with difficult histories, we must first be honest and open about it," Maldonado wrote in a 28-page request for renaming. He also asked that Stanford put up a plaque at Jordan Hall that explains "the harm caused by his actions and the lasting legacies of eugenics in the United States."

Tessier-Lavigne said the new committee will convene when Stanford's campus reopens.

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"I will ask the committee to engage robustly with the campus community on the issues raised in the requests, which will not be possible to do at a distance during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place," he said.

The committee will consider the requests using principles established for the renaming of facilities named after Father Junipero Serra, including the harmful impact of a person's behavior, the centrality of the behavior to the person's life as a whole, the person's relation to university history, community identification with the named feature, the strength and clarity of the historical evidence and possibilities for mitigation.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra to honor 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.

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Jordan Hall carries the name of Stanford's controversial founding president. A new committee will consider requests to remove it.

Faculty, student group press for renaming

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 21, 2020, 11:35 am

Despite Stanford University's removal of some campus references to Junipero Serra and the neighboring Palo Alto school district's decision to rename David Starr Jordan Middle School in 2018, Stanford's Jordan Hall, also named after the university's founding president and a eugenicist, remained unchanged.

On Tuesday, however, the university announced a committee will consider faculty and student requests to remove Jordan's name from the campus building.

Jordan Hall houses the Department of Psychology, whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building. They also asked that a statue outside the building be removed. The statue depicts Louis Agassiz, who Stanford described as a "renowned scholar of natural history, (and) promoted polygenism, which holds that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal."

"David Starr Jordan and Louis Agassiz, by virtue of their racist ideologies and practices, are incompatible with Stanford's values on initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning," the professors wrote in a March 9 letter to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. "The name and statue were in place long before the Psychology Department came to occupy the building, and we do not identify with either of the features."

The letter notes the "precedent set" by the Palo Alto school district by renaming Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School after a contentious debate in 2018.

"Featuring Jordan's name on one of the main buildings of Stanford's entrance i) tarnishes our national and international reputations, ii) undermines Stanford's values of initiative, diversity, equity, and access in learning, and iii) prevents staff, students, and faculty, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g., minority, immigrant, low-income), from developing a sense of inclusion and belonging at Stanford," they wrote.

Psychology doctoral students also support the renaming of Jordan Hall. They reported in a survey that Jordan's name and the Agassiz statute elicit negative feelings, such as anger, discomfort, disrespect, distress and hurt, and that removing the two would increase positive feelings such as comfort, optimism, trust and credibility, the professors said in their letter.

The Stanford Eugenics History Project, founded by undergraduate student Ben Maldonado, asked the university in February to rename Jordan Hall. Maldonado has created a website devoted to research about the history of eugenics at Stanford and Jordan's complicated legacy.

"Acknowledgement of both Jordan's and Stanford's role in the rise and spread of eugenics in the United States is the first step that must be taken by Stanford University: to grapple with difficult histories, we must first be honest and open about it," Maldonado wrote in a 28-page request for renaming. He also asked that Stanford put up a plaque at Jordan Hall that explains "the harm caused by his actions and the lasting legacies of eugenics in the United States."

Tessier-Lavigne said the new committee will convene when Stanford's campus reopens.

"I will ask the committee to engage robustly with the campus community on the issues raised in the requests, which will not be possible to do at a distance during the COVID-19 shelter-in-place," he said.

The committee will consider the requests using principles established for the renaming of facilities named after Father Junipero Serra, including the harmful impact of a person's behavior, the centrality of the behavior to the person's life as a whole, the person's relation to university history, community identification with the named feature, the strength and clarity of the historical evidence and possibilities for mitigation.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra to honor 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.

Comments

white supremacy
Stanford
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:47 am
white supremacy, Stanford
on Apr 21, 2020 at 11:47 am
9 people like this

Jordan was a white supremacist 100 years ago. Is white supremacy only becoming recognized as evil now that Trump is President?


midtown resident
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 21, 2020 at 12:28 pm
midtown resident, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 21, 2020 at 12:28 pm
15 people like this

It really is a travesty to erase history we went through as a country , removing books from schools , changing names of schools. After all this time, adjusting/deleting what history has made us into. A great country. Never forget! This history being erased can remove the memory , a huge lesson, to not go there again...


white supremacy
Stanford
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:21 pm
white supremacy, Stanford
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:21 pm
8 people like this

We should not be erasing our history. We need to carefully document it so future generations can learn from it. Stanford's white supremacist history has been hidden for too many years.


redplanet
Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm
redplanet, Palo Alto High School
on Apr 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm
5 people like this

Suddenly Stanford decides to rename Jordan Hall? The murder of Jane Stanford wasn't enough to give some thought to who this person really was? Like another writer I am not for erasure of history by eliminating names and statues and am always one for a robust conversation and a conversation starter. No one is perfect - but we're not going to eliminate Jefferson because he kept records of how much he was making from the fields tended to by his slaves. So Jordan - let's out him for this: Web Link and if the students at Stanford want more egalitarianism they should begin by teaching more about Jane. She was awesome.(and so was Leland, in some similar and some very different ways)


AlexDeLarge
Midtown
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:11 pm
AlexDeLarge, Midtown
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:11 pm
9 people like this

[Post removed.]


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 21, 2020 at 2:19 pm
8 people like this

Perhaps these graduate students should have done a little research before accepting their scholarships to Stanford to study, and making it their focus to complain and change the University they voluntarily selected.

Senator Stanford loathed Asians. He emphasizes it in his inaugural address.
You can call him prescient, or call him a eugenicist, but he was one of the great industrialists (like my great great grandfather) in our state.

Web Link

This is about as ridiculous as a foreign born newcomer to Palo Alto demanding that the name of Jordan Junior High School be changed. It's name is Jordan, and it will never be any other name to thousands of students before he arrived. This then stirred a huge divide between the vocal newly arrived Chinese and our long time respectable Japanese American and Chinese American citizens.

It is a historical fact that eugenics was studied and practiced not only on non-western people, but on whites as well.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 3:27 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 21, 2020 at 3:27 pm
8 people like this

Posted by midtown resident, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive

>> It really is a travesty to erase history we went through as a country , removing books from schools , changing names of schools.

I'm sorry but I don't see the moral equivalency. I think it is perfectly OK to change the name of schools. Should be done more often.

As for Jordan, he wrote one of the dumbest books I have ever read: Web Link. He definitely should have stuck to Ichthyology. If the Department of Ichthyology was in Jordan Hall, I would say "Keep the name." Unfortunately, I think it is the home of the Psychology Department, and, likely the place where Lewis Terman did his research. In which case-- "Rename it!"


Covid-Kid
Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2020 at 3:56 am
Covid-Kid, Mountain View
on Apr 22, 2020 at 3:56 am
10 people like this

Leland Stanford was an unapologetic racist! We need to rename the University! Why is there no committee on this?
Web Link


Me 2
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2020 at 9:28 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 22, 2020 at 9:28 am
8 people like this

"Leland Stanford was an unapologetic racist! We need to rename the University! Why is there no committee on this?"

Maybe because it was named after his son?

In any case, it was dumb to rename Jordan and Terman. It's dumb to rename this building.

Hindsight is 20/20

Who knows - in 100 years, we'll see how "racist" the climate change movement really is and we'll take down those names too.

(sarcasm)


Mark Weiss
Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:21 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:21 am
Like this comment

What Do You Stand For?


The Name Game Or Blame Game?
Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:59 am
The Name Game Or Blame Game?, Crescent Park
on Apr 22, 2020 at 10:59 am
2 people like this

Eugenics is a controversial topic/subject from the standpoint of how it is interpreted & utilized.

On one hand, contemporary medical researchers are continually studying & identifying potential and/or genetically-related birth defects, striving to either minimalize or eliminate the causal factors.

On the other hand & historically speaking, various societies have pushed the concept of eugenics to extremes based on racism/ethnocentrism...resulting in genocide & human rights violations.

Plato stressed the critical importance of selective breeding in 400BC to improve the fabric of Greek society and the Romans & ancient Germanic tribes weeded out what they perceived were 'undesirable' traits via euthanasia & abortions.

Ironically, the Catholic Church opposed eugenics based their opposition to abortion yet practiced various forms of eugenics via their Inquisition 'concept'.

So as far as renaming Stanford University or Jordan Hall...No comment or opinion one way or the other as it amounts to a PC-centric alteration/correction VS acknowledging our past history and ideally evolving as human beings.




Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:14 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:14 am
3 people like this

Posted by Covid-Kid, a resident of Mountain View

>> Leland Stanford was an unapologetic racist! We need to rename the University!

Leland Stanford Junior University Web Link was named after this person: Web Link.


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:33 am
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:33 am
2 people like this

Margaret Sanger was a eugenist and she founded Planned Parenthood for eugenist reasons. I don't see anyone complaining about that!


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:50 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 11:50 am
2 people like this

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Margaret Sanger was a eugenist and she founded Planned Parenthood for eugenist reasons. I don't see anyone complaining about that!

Actually, lots and lots of people have noted Margaret Sanger's history, and, complained about parts of it. It isn't a secret by any means. Here is an article from Time Magazine in 2016:

Web Link

But, just so you know, a lot of the people who bring this up all the time are Right-Wing-Authoritarians who are against birth control and women's reproductive rights. Just so you know-- I'm in favor of birth control and women's reproductive rights, and, personal freedom for both women and men.


Another resident
Midtown
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm
Another resident, Midtown
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:09 pm
2 people like this

Two problems here. First, looking at historical events through the lens of present-day values, whatever those are, is an intellectual error. Societies evolve and what may have been acceptable 100 years ago may not seem so now. Using a present day yardstick to measure behavior of historical people is just such an error.

Second, no one is perfect. There are many icons out there, such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, who seem unassailable now, but in 25 or 100 years may have their names removed from streets and schools for their missteps, which are in the current environment not deemed impeachable.

IMHO the school/building renaming thing is simply PC at its "best".


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:36 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 12:36 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Another resident, a resident of Midtown

>> Two problems here. First, looking at historical events through the lens of present-day values, whatever those are, is an intellectual error.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

>> Second, no one is perfect. There are many icons out there, such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, who seem unassailable now, but in 25 or 100 years may have their names removed from streets and schools for their missteps, which are in the current environment not deemed impeachable.

You know what? I'm OK with that. I've never been in favor of naming things after people, but, any time you name something after a person, you run the risk that someone in the future may change it. About the only thing still named after Adolph Hitler is the beetle "Anophthalmus hitleri" Web Link

>> IMHO the school/building renaming thing is simply PC at its "best".

My preference is still to name schools after trees, but, if you must name a school after a person, Ellen Fletcher was one of the best: Web Link


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 1:10 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 22, 2020 at 1:10 pm
2 people like this

P.S. I will say to add to my previous post and any criticism of what I say is that I have absolutely nothing against contraception or women's reproductive rights. I also believe in the rights of the living preborn and the rights of all living humans after birth.


Jim
Professorville
on Apr 22, 2020 at 3:29 pm
Jim, Professorville
on Apr 22, 2020 at 3:29 pm
Like this comment

I agree that Jordan Hall should be renamed.

I do not agree with the current trend of shaming, ostracizing, or firing a person who has led an exemplary life over the misuse of a single word, or similar one-off mistake. I also do not agree that books should be removed from libraries, or that people or ideas should be erased from history.

But I also do not agree that people who spent years promoting a profoundly immoral ideology should be honored. Actions have consequences, and the eugenics movement led directly to the most monstrous evil of the 20th century, the murder of over 12 million innocent human beings in the holocaust.

In my opinion, a prominent promoter of eugenics does not deserve to be honored at Stanford University.


Big10Alum
Stanford
on Apr 22, 2020 at 6:17 pm
Big10Alum, Stanford
on Apr 22, 2020 at 6:17 pm
5 people like this

The Stanford family were a bunch of politically-incorrect, capitalistic, elitist Robber Barons. [Portion removed.]


redplanet
Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2020 at 12:22 am
redplanet, Palo Alto High School
on Apr 24, 2020 at 12:22 am
2 people like this

@Big10Alum Leland Stanford had more to him than the capitalistic robber baron persona. "As a United States senator, Stanford introduced two bills — never passed — which were decried as “fully impregnated with socialistic ideas.” His politics struck such a chord with the Populist Party, which advocated the interests of farmers and laborers, that there were calls within the movement to nominate him for the 1892 presidency" A Stanford alum, Lee Altenberg, PhD, 84, uncovered much lost documentation of this part of Leland:

"Stanford championed the idea of a world where business was controlled not by monopolies but by laborers, founding a university that he hoped would foster this vision — a hope the Stanford University of today seems to have forgotten, according to Altenberg.

“This piece of Stanford history has fallen through the cracks of the institution’s collective memory,” said Altenberg, who published his findings in a 1990 issue of the Stanford Historical Society’s journal “Sandstone & Tile.” You can find more on the matter by reading Stanford Daily account Web Link


Resident
Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2020 at 12:51 am
Resident, Old Palo Alto
on Apr 24, 2020 at 12:51 am
3 people like this

I agree that we should not look at history through the lens of today.
Eugenics was practiced on Caucasians who had parents or relatives that were alcoholics, had a history of criminality, as well as birth defects or mental illness.

Don't make this a purely racial thing.
Just drop this for now Ben.
The university has a lot on it's plate at the moment, and you are throwing more at them at the worst time.

Boredom studying undergrad history is hard, but this is not the right time to make your statement. My two cents.


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