Sample Policy

Principles and procedures for renaming buildings and other landmarks at Stanford University


In 2016, the Undergraduate Senate and Graduate Student Council of the Associated Students of Stanford University passed a resolution demanding that the university rename campus buildings and landmarks that had been named after Junipero Serra—who established the first Catholic missions in California—in recognition of the violence that his missions inflicted on Native Americans. In response, then-President John Hennessy and then-Provost John Etchemendy established an initial committee to advise the university on how to review and consider name changes. Hennessy’s successor, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, formed two new committees, composed of faculty, students, staff, and alumni, to build on this work and make conclusive recommendations in the form of principles and procedures. The resulting document acknowledges that name changes represent a “serious expression of condemnation” and are only warranted in rare circumstances. It details how to formally request a name change and what factors the senior administration and Board of Trustees consider when evaluating those requests. The principles stipulate that evaluations should be handled with nuance to ensure that any renaming does not inhibit research or academic freedom and does not “oversimplify, revise, or erase history.” Applying these principles to the case of Junipero Serra, Stanford decided that his historical role was “in tension with” the “goal of full inclusion” and thus warranted renaming.

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What we like about this policy

  • Demonstrates that the university took calls from the student government seriously and reacted with a multifaceted, thorough, and inclusive approach.
  • Affirms the university’s commitment to academic freedom.
  • Affirms the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Acknowledges that names of campus buildings and landmarks can have a significant impact on community members and sets up a clear mechanism for the university to consider amending them.

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