ASSU Senate requests the University rename buildings dedicated to Junipero Serra

Feb. 10, 2016, 12:56 a.m.

At its 21st meeting, the 17th Undergraduate Senate discussed funding for the Stanford News Readership Program and the construction of new residences in West Campus and passed two resolutions, including the Resolution in Support of Reaffirming Stanford’s Commitment to Indigenous and Native American Community, Identity, Dignity and Space and the Bill to Improve Undergraduate Senate Accountability. The former requests action by the University to rename buildings currently dedicated to Father Junipero Serra, and the latter proposed the elimination of Senate committees.

The resolution, proposed by Leo Bird ‘17, claims that because Serra carried out genocide against the indigenous people of California, his prominence on campus contradicts the University’s founding principles.

“​This recognition [of Serra] illustrates the dismissal, indifference and subsequent erasure of indigenous voices in the institution and tacitly celebrates the atrocities visited upon Native communities of old,” the bill stated.

ASSU Executive President John-Lancaster Finley ’16, a co-sponsor of the bill, insisted that Serra’s time predates the founding of the University and that the man has no affiliation with Stanford.

“The other crimes are to be taken in concert to the fact that Junipero has no contribution to the university,” Finley said. “As a community, we’re evaluating, should this name be so prominently featured on campus. Father Serra is all over campus, on the University address, on the undergraduate residence and on the house for gender research.”  

Representatives from The Stanford Review posed contentions about the lack of a standard framework for identifying the individuals and the crimes that would make them unsuitable for the University to pay homage. Specifically, Harry Elliott ’18 of The Review questioned why the Senate singled out Serra and not other individuals.

“If the Senate were to take it upon itself to remove a name from a building, they have to come up with clear and consistent standards of the level of offense that has to be reached and the actions of the person,” Elliot said.

ASSU Vice President Brandon Hill ‘16 also argued that the framework should include an examination of the net impact of a person’s life on a case-by-case basis.  

“We look at, what is the impact of somebody’s legacy,” Hill said. “Father Serra’s actions led to the massacre of thousands of people and the disappearance of languages and cultures, which is a net negative [impact]. We should shift the burden from us to justifying why he needs to go to, why is it imperative that he needs to be celebrated in the robust manner that he is on campus?”

Jasmin Espinosa ‘18  expressed the desire to respond to student voices by carrying through with the bill rather than unnecessarily delaying action by arguing over a standard framework for identifying atrocities. Several senators agreed that a policy could be discussed in the future.

“I don’t think we need to take the time to create further structure that other senators have already mentioned,” Espinosa said. “It’s only going to delay action. There are students here showing concern, and they ought to be heard. That’s why we are here as a Senate: to represent their concerns for the administration.”

Guest speakers from Residential Education

Koren L. Bakkegard, Associate Dean of Residential Education (ResEd), and Cisco Barrón, Director of Information for ResEd, attended the meeting to address issues related to housing changes next year.

The newly built Lagunita houses will be four-class dorms and their architecture has been designed to reflect this vision. Most of the rooms will be be singles, two-room doubles and clusterings of one-room doubles for freshmen.

In order to have the approximately 100 freshmen needed to fill the new Lagunita houses, Trancos will be transformed into an all-sophomore house. ResEd thought that Trancos would be a suitable house to implement the change partly because the resident fellows (RFs) will be changing.

“We went through a process of talking to the RFs in Wilbur and Stern to look at a variety of options,” Bakkegard said. “After those conversations, there was a strong interest for them to keep the all-frosh identity of the houses. But, we have two houses next year where the RFs will be changing, and one of them is Trancos.”

In the end, ResEd also hopes to meet demands for more one-class housing by designating Trancos for sophomores.

“Every year, Toyon is in the top two of houses in demand in the draw,” Bakkegard said. “Maybe that’s about geography or architecture, but I think a lot of that is wanting to continue [in] the vein of wanting to be in a single-class house.”

Bill to abolish committees passed with revision

The previous bill to eliminate Senate committees, proposed by Matthew Cohen ‘18, passed with the clarification that senators will still be encouraged to work collaboratively. However, Cohen insisted that there should be a point person responsible for every project and reporting to the Senate.

Bill to fund print New York Times copies

The Stanford News Readership Program (SNRP) has provided free copies of The New York Times to students since 2002, according to its website. SNRP President Nicholas Obletz ’17 and Vice President Alec Powell ’16 attended the meeting to ask for funding for the continuation of newspaper distribution. The bill asks for $8,505 of funding to purchase and deliver the paper to dining halls and various locations on campus.

However, because SNRP did not apply for funding last year, the group lost its status as a student group. The senators expressed concern in allocating funding to individual students rather than a student group, as well as the need for providing paper copies instead of online access. Ultimately, the Senate decided to table the bill for further discussion.


Contact Ariel Liu at aliu15 ‘at’

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