Stan­ford re­nam­ing Serra sites over treat­ment of tribes

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - BAYAREA - By Nanette Asi­mov

In an ef­fort to dis­tance it­self from Fa­ther Ju­nipero Serra, the 18th cen­tury leader of the Cal­i­for­nia Mis­sion sys­tem that helped to de­stroy na­tive cul­ture through­out the state, Stan­ford Univer­sity has an­nounced it will erase the name “Serra” from two dor­mi­to­ries and its own mail­ing ad­dress on Serra Mall.

From 1769 to 1823, Span­ish colonists built 21 mis­sions in which na­tive peo­ple were kept as slave la­bor and pun­ished if they tried to es­cape. Serra founded the first nine.

The sys­tem “contributed to the de­struc­tion of the cul­tural, eco­nomic, and re­li­gious prac­tices of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties and left many tribal com­mu­ni­ties dec­i­mated,” wrote a Stan­ford com­mit­tee charged with rec­om­mend­ing whether to scrub Serra’s name from univer­sity build­ings and roads.

Stan­ford is the lat­est among many aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions that in re­cent years have taken a new look at cam­pus struc­tures hon­or­ing his­tory’s vil­lains: slave­hold­ers, lead­ers of the Con­fed­er­acy and pro­pounders of hate.

On Tues­day, the UC Berke­ley School of Law an­nounced it will purge nu­mer­ous cam­pus ref­er­ences to “Boalt,” a name as­so­ci­ated with the famed law school for more than a cen­tury, be­cause the ac­tions of its name­sake, John Boalt, had led to the Chi­nese Ex­clu­sion Act of 1882. The school will re­tain an en­dowed chair named for Boalt.

Sim­i­larly, Stan­ford won’t scrub all ref­er­ences to Serra. One “or­di­nary street” on cam­pus will remain named for the for­mer priest and friar of the Fran­cis­can or­der of the Catholic Church whom Pope Fran­cis can­on­ized in 2015. The com­mit­tee that rec­om­mended the changes said the street lacked the “salience” of the other fea­tures that will no longer cel­e­brate Serra.

Re­gard­ing Serra’s can­on­iza­tion, the com­mit­tee wrote: “Though we have no doubt about Serra’s piety and good in­ten­tions, it is also a fact that the mis­sion sys­tem per­va­sively mis­treated and abused Cal­i­for­nia’s Na­tive Amer­i­cans.”

The com­mit­tee rec­om­mended against re­nam­ing other fea­tures on cam­pus named af­ter Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies with­out “the dis­cov­ery of ma­jor new ev­i­dence about a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual’s mis­con­duct.” Do­ing so could min­i­mize the role of the mis­sion move­ment in Stan­ford’s found­ing his­tory, the group said.

The Stan­ford trustees agreed to seek ap­proval from Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Ser­vice to re­name Serra Mall — the univer­sity’s main en­trance and its mail­ing ad­dress at No. 450 Serra Mall — for its co-founder, Jane Stan­ford.

“Cu­ri­ously, we cur­rently have no ma­jor cam­pus fea­ture that ap­pro­pri­ately hon­ors her,” Stan­ford Pres­i­dent Marc Tessier-Lav­i­gne said in a state­ment.

Stan­ford founded the univer­sity in 1885 with her hus­band, Le­land Stan­ford, and helped steer it through “the many strug­gles of its early years, par­tic­u­larly af­ter her hus­band’s death” in 1893, just two years af­ter the univer­sity opened its doors, Tessier-Lav­i­gne said.

The univer­sity trustees also ap­proved re­nam­ing the Serra dor­mi­tory in Stern Hall, and Serra House, where the Clay­man In­sti­tute for Gen­der Re­search is lo­cated. New names have not yet been cho­sen.

“We hope that re­nam­ing the two Serra houses and Serra Mall will re­move a sig­nif­i­cant hurt to Na­tive Amer­i­cans, other mem­bers of the Stan­ford com­mu­nity, and the larger di­verse world that Stan­ford seeks to em­brace,” the com­mit­tee con­cluded.

The com­mit­tee ac­knowl­edged the “sense of loss” that alumni and oth­ers feel at chang­ing the name that for 127 years has an­nounced Stan­ford’s main street. And yet, the com­mit­tee said, its promi­nence “does not de­pend on its bear­ing a name that causes genuine pain.”

Paul E. Ro­driguez / Or­ange County Reg­is­ter 2001

A church marks the en­trance to Stan­ford Univer­sity on Serra Mall, named af­ter mis­sion­ary Ju­nipero Serra. The cam­pus is drop­ping the Serra name.

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