Editorial Board: Students deserve more definitive response from renaming committee

Nov. 3, 2017, 1:00 a.m.

In March of last year, the ASSU Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council passed a resolution requesting that the University rename all places on campus that bear the name of Junipero Serra, the Spanish missionary who created and led the California mission system.

At a Faculty Senate meeting that same month, former President John Hennessy and former Provost John Etchemendy announced the formation of a committee to “establish principles for reconsidering and renaming campus streets and buildings, and to apply those principles first and foremost to places that honor Junipero Serra.” By May 2016, the committee was already soliciting campus-wide suggestions for guiding principles in its renaming discussions.

However, as The Daily reported two weeks ago, this committee has quietly shifted its focus to formulating general guidelines for future renaming discussions, with no guarantee of a recommendation on Serra.

This move represents a failure in communication and a hindrance of necessary and important action — responding to student activists’ valid concerns — through bureaucratic red tape. The controversial nature of Serra has been recounted many times, both in our publication and others. Regardless of your personal stance on the man whom Pope Francis canonized in 2015, you can’t deny that, when taking into account Serra’s potentially problematic treatment of Native Americans as well as his lack of any direct contribution to the University, a request to consider the issue deserves an adequate reply.

Although the committee never promised to immediately rename all buildings invoking Serra’s name, this announcement came with zero warning to those involved in the initial push for renaming, and it failed to deliver any long-term solution. Actually renaming buildings seems to have been removed completely from the table, replaced by vague promises of future guidelines. Moreover, communication within the committee is reported to have been minimal at best, with holdups blamed on summer breaks and faculty drop-out.

We recognize the importance of carefully crafted long-term guidelines, especially when deliberating over unprecedented and long-lasting changes on campus that come with a certain amount of controversy. But committees charged with such tasks don’t have to be so inefficient and, for lack of a better word, bureaucratic.  

Here we point to the success of the long-range planning initiative, intended to produce a large number of equally long-lasting changes. The long-range planning groups have not only successfully collected thousands of ideas from community members, but they have also aggregated each and every one of these ideas into “white papers,” and are expected to release those papers on deadline. Long-range planning, like renaming, has major implications for Stanford’s future. But in this case, the administration has remained committed to transparency and community involvement, even in the planning stages. This is how you build community and, more importantly, maintain trust between students and the administration.

We call on the renaming committee to share its progress and set a firm timeline on delivering its recommendations and acting on them. When the University declares nearly two years into the process that it can’t deliver, it destroys the fragile trust in a relationship that is already inherently unequal. Delaying the issue won’t make it go away, and students deserve answers.

— Vol. 252 Editorial Board


Contact the Board at opinions ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

Editorials represent the views of The Stanford Daily, an independent newspaper serving Stanford and the surrounding community. The Daily's Editorial Board consists of President and Editor-in-Chief Ada Statler-Throckmorton '18, Executive Editor Samantha Wong '18, Managing Editor of Opinions Stephanie Chen '18, and Editor-at-Large Tristan Vanech '18. To contact the Editorial Board, submit an op-ed (limited to 700 words) at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor (limited to 500 words) at [email protected]

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