Students at Stanford University, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, are attempting to scrub names and symbols that honor people who are historically connected to slavery and colonialism from the college campus. The move echoes a series of colleges across the nation whose students have attempted to do the same.
The latest target in this battle is Saint Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Spanish, Roman Catholic priest and missionary who was canonized last September. His name is on two dorms, an academic building a street and the mall that is the school’s official address.
It is “important for the university to recognize that we need to reinvest and reappropriate these spaces in the names of indigenous people,” Stanford student Leo John Bird said, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Serra started nine missions that would go on to lay the foundation for what would become California. In a video posted to the Mercury News, Bird said that in these quarters “there was jailing of indigenous women in quarters away from indigenous men so that Spanish soldiers could come in and rape them and continue to perpetuate abuses against culture.”
Students who want his name removed from campus dorms, halls and streets suggest his name cite his “role in the assimilation and exploitation of Native Americans” as their reasoning for its removal. Some of these students reportedly want the sites renamed to honor tribal heroes instead.
Last year, Breitbart News broke news of students at UC Irvine who were “triggered” by the American flag, suggesting it offended the feelings of immigrants and minorities on campus. Attempts to have flag removed from certain parts of campus failed.
This month, the faculty at Stanford reportedly announced a new committee, to be led by history Professor Emeritus David Kennedy, which will set principles for campus names. Stanford Provost John Etchemendy told the Faculty Senate, according to the Stanford Report: “Not all of those names are names of people that have unblemished histories. So we want to be able to apply the principles, not just to the Serra name but to other names to determine whether or not they should be changed.”
UC Berkeley, Amherst, Yale, Princeton, Georgetown and others are among campuses that have experienced similar demands.
However, not everyone believes scrubbing the names of individuals who were part of American history, however cruel it was, is the answer. “It seems incredibly harsh to judge him [Serra] by these exact moral standards that we hold today,” Stanford student Harry Elliott, who is Catholic, reportedly said.
Still, others seemed to suggest that while renaming the buildings wouldn’t fix the problem, it might be a positive step in the right direction.
Last year, the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley reportedly demanded that the school change the name of Barrow’s Hall to honor Assata Shakur (a.k.a. Joanne Chesimard), a Black Panther Party revolutionary who is on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. She has enjoyed refuge in Cuba after escaping from prison in 1977, where she was booked for killing a New Jersey state trooper four years prior.
The Obama administration recently renewed relations with the communist dictatorship, and the president is planning a two-day visit there on March 21. It will be the first visit to Cuba from a sitting U.S. president in 88 years.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.