Short Take: Que Serra, Serra

Stroll around the lovely campus of Stanford University and one name surrounds you. Junipero Serra.

Two dorms; an academic building; a street (Serra Mall) that fronts Stanford’s historic Main Quad and is the university’s official address; and a major road running through the 8,000-acre campus are all named after Junipero Serra, the 18th century Spanish-born Franciscan friar who founded the first nine of the 21 California missions.

Now Native American and other campus activists are pressuring Stanford to erase from the campus all traces of the padre. Serra, the activists say, brutalized Indians at the missions, covered for Spanish colonization and squelched indigenous culture by converting the Indians to Catholicism.

There was a time when Brother Serra was honored. There is a time when he’s too awful to exist. This presented a problem, and not just the cost of buying some new signs. What was the alternative?

Stanford administrators have been wringing their hands over all this since March 2016, when the student assembly passed a resolution calling for the renaming of three buildings and a change of the university’s official address. (Stanford doesn’t have the power to rename the Mall, its campus extension, Serra Street, or the bigger public thoroughfare Junipero Serra Boulevard.) The Stanford Graduate Council and the Faculty Senate quickly joined in. The university set up a committee to recommend new names, but after a year and a half of inability to come to a consensus, the committee announced in October that it was giving up and would instead issue guidelines for future deliberations.

Reminiscent of “everything is problematic,” these are hard times for deciding who in history didn’t offend someone.

That decision didn’t sit well with some students and alumni. One Native American activist called it a “slap in the face.” And indeed Stanford does seem to be missing out on a growing trend of altering campus infrastructure whose original namesakes are no longer in compliance with current notions of political acceptability.

But history is a bitch, and the fact remained that Serra existed.

But that ought to be beside the point. Serra is inextricably intertwined with the history of Stanford University, and the history of California itself. He cannot be easily purged.

If Serra isn’t easily erased from the “history of Stanford University,” then what of Leland Stanford himself?

So, the politically correct activists at Stanford University want to remove St. Junipero Serra’s name from their sanctimonious institute. Fine.

However, I think they should first look into the record of their founder, Leland Stanford, who didn’t even bother to hide his racist view of Chinese people by saying to the state Legislature in 1862, “The presence of numbers of that degraded and distinct people would exercise a deleterious effect upon the superior race.”

Oh my god, Stanford sounds almost as horrifying as Brock Turner! How is it possible all those students and alums should be forced to suffer seeing the name of this racist at the top of their diplomas. I’m literally shaking.

But what to do? You can’t name every building Harriet Tubman Hall, as froshpersons won’t know where their classes are being held. Graduates of the University in Palo Alto that cannot be named can always take a crayon and cross out the offending name, replacing it with whoever is least problematic to their identity group (sorry, intersectional people for whom no one suffices, but you’re on your own).

What a mess this will make with their LinkedIn profiles, where no one will appreciate that listing a degree from Harriet Tubman University won’t distinguish you from every other woke graduate of a school of the same name.

I suggest to the activists that they try to remove this blatant white supremacist’s name from their institute before dabbling with anyone else. Otherwise, their demands ring hollow.

Stanford University has a certain cachet. Like Harvard. Like Yale. If only we were always as woke when taking people’s money to start universities as we are today. Oh, and they really need to give back the dirty money of racists (right Cecil Rhodes?) if they’re to be politically pure.

21 thoughts on “Short Take: Que Serra, Serra

  1. B. McLeod

    Obviously, the Stanford fascists have been a problem for society for a long time, and will continue to be a problem, with their shitlord naming and such, for the foreseeable future.

  2. Nick Lidakis

    Pre-K’s have a whiteboard and dry markers where the kiddywinks fill in what juice they feel like for the day. Or are whiteboards too *ist?

  3. Wrongway

    “Graduates of the University in Palo Alto that cannot be named can always take a crayon and cross out the offending name”

    I literally can’t stop laughing..
    now we start the debate on the appropriate color of said crayon..

    1. SHG Post author

      As far as I can remember, the rich kids had those 64 crayon sets with the sharpener in the back? I was so envious of that sharpener. I asked Santa for one, but he told you, “you’re Jewish, get lost kid.” But I digress.

          1. cthulhu

            My Crayola sets always had “flesh tone”. It was approximately the color of cat vomit. White privilege FTW!

      1. wilbur

        I was intrigued by the Flesh color crayon in my friend’s box, not being quite sure what to make of it.

        I wanted the sharpener box, too, but got turned down. So don’t feel bad. Santa didn’t give a shit that I was a Catholic altar boy.

        What I really wanted was a Schwinn Fastback, with the banana seat and the high handlebars. What I eventually got was a Sears three-speed monstrosity. Ernie on My Three Sons would’ve rightly deemed it “clunky”. But it wouldn’t do to complain, you just offered it up as a penance.

        I did a lot of offering up.

        1. SHG Post author

          OMG, the same thing happened to me. I wanted the fastback in royal blue with the banana seat and butterfly handlebars, but my father got me a 2-speed “English racer,” because that’s what he always wanted. As if I wasn’t a big enough loser already.

  4. womanwarrior

    C’mon, lighten up bashing a great University. And need I point out that Stanford University is not named for the robber baron. Indeed it is named for the son who died young of typhoid. As spelled out by the Incomparable Band, which the networks do not allow to be seen because it is never politically correct, the name of the University is: Leland Stanford Junior University (organized 1891). You may recall that Stanford changed its sports mascot from Indians, many years ago, at the request of Native Americans, and guess what, the sports teams, now known as the Cardinal, still win (although not every game – dang USC). (The students at that time voted for naming the mascot the Robber Barons). The Women’s Soccer team just won the NCAA Soccer Championship. To my knowledge, young Leland, Jr. is not on record as publicly saying anything racist. And believe it or not, not everyone at Stanford is rich – the University is very generous with its endowment for people who get in and cannot afford it.

    1. SHG Post author

      Yes, yes, the racist robber baron named it for his son, as every apologist points out, and use their fabulous ill-gotten gains to assuage their guilt by giving need-based scholarships to the poor, pathetic unworthy riff-raff. Real Ivies suck at football, by the way.

    2. Karl Kolchak

      Nobody would have any idea who Leland Stanford Jr. is, nor would he have had the money to found the University, were it not for his racist, Chinese worker slaughtering old man. I don’t care whether Stanford changes its name, but calling out other “monsters of history” without eradicating their own is nothing more than rank hypocrisy.

  5. Dana

    People don’t consider the opportunity that these situations provide to ‘correct the record’. If we erase every trace of historical figures who (by our standards) did wrong, how many fewer people will remember? Instead update (or add) plaques to these monuments that acknowledge the good and the bad.

    1. SHG Post author

      A perfectly fair reaction. Just as we can’t erase their existence in history, we can remember the bad as well as the good.

    2. LocoYokel

      Now you’re being rational and providing actual learning opportunities. The outraged emotional woke can’t have that. They might actually learn to see multiple viewpoints, OH THE HORROR!

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