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Stanford to remove David Starr Jordan's name while hoping not to erase his 'complex' legacy

Board of Trustees approves renaming recommendation from president, committee

On Oct. 7, Stanford University announced plans to remove the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

Stanford University will be removing the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets, citing his leadership in the eugenics movement.

The university's Board of Trustees, acting on a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, approved a committee's direction to immediately remove Jordan's name from Jordan Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology; Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars, near Panama Street and Campus Drive West; and Jordan Way in the Stanford Medical Center area.

The university also hopes to not completely erase his place in campus history but to provide a "complete view of his complex history, which includes not only his seminal leadership as the university's founding president but also his parallel leadership in promoting eugenics," an Oct. 7 announcement reads.

Stanford plans to add an informational plaque in Jordan Hall — whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building — and create additional historical displays and educational programming to document his "complex" legacy.

"David Starr Jordan made monumental contributions to the founding and development of Stanford, which are rightly celebrated," Tessier-Lavigne said. "But, as the committee reported, Jordan was an equally powerful and vigorous driving force for beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the values of our campus community, and he leveraged his position as president to advance them. Those two facts were central to my decision to endorse the committee's recommendations, as was the fact that the actions recommended by the committee do not seek to erase Jordan's legacy, but rather to put it in proper perspective and to recognize his history on our campus in new ways."

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Jordan was president from 1891 to 1913. The university's announcement details his work as a naturalist, ichthyologist and innovative educator before going into the fact that he promoted eugenics, including by using his platform as Stanford president to advocate for policies that ultimately led to forced sterilizations, the university said.

Stanford also plans to move a statue of Jordan's mentor, Louis Agassiz, from Jordan Hall to another location on campus "where it can be given appropriate context." Agassiz was a naturalist who also promoted polygenism, a belief that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal.

"In David Starr Jordan's history, we identified an unsettling connection between his advocacy for eugenics and his leadership at Stanford, and strong evidence that his influence encouraged students to put these beliefs into practice," committee chair and law professor Bernadette Meyler said in the announcement. "But Jordan's and Agassiz's impact is not limited to the past, because to this day their beliefs continue to cast a shadow on our campus."

In 2018, the Palo Alto school district renamed its Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, spurred by a middle schooler's book report on Jordan's eugenics advocacy.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra after two alumnae: Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, a psychologist credited with creating the field of Native American mental health.

Debra Satz, whose responsibilities as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences include the Department of Psychology, will be in charge of the process of determining a new name for Jordan Hall. She will bring her recommendation to the president and provost.

Stanford said it will remove the Jordan Hall lettering from the building "as soon as practicable," along with the Agassiz statue, and the building will be referred to by its number in the Main Quad, Building 420.

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Stanford to remove David Starr Jordan's name while hoping not to erase his 'complex' legacy

Board of Trustees approves renaming recommendation from president, committee

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Oct 10, 2020, 7:30 am

Stanford University will be removing the name of its founding president, David Starr Jordan, from campus buildings and streets, citing his leadership in the eugenics movement.

The university's Board of Trustees, acting on a recommendation by President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, approved a committee's direction to immediately remove Jordan's name from Jordan Hall, which houses the Department of Psychology; Jordan Quad and Jordan Modulars, near Panama Street and Campus Drive West; and Jordan Way in the Stanford Medical Center area.

The university also hopes to not completely erase his place in campus history but to provide a "complete view of his complex history, which includes not only his seminal leadership as the university's founding president but also his parallel leadership in promoting eugenics," an Oct. 7 announcement reads.

Stanford plans to add an informational plaque in Jordan Hall — whose faculty members unanimously voted to rename the building — and create additional historical displays and educational programming to document his "complex" legacy.

"David Starr Jordan made monumental contributions to the founding and development of Stanford, which are rightly celebrated," Tessier-Lavigne said. "But, as the committee reported, Jordan was an equally powerful and vigorous driving force for beliefs and actions that are antithetical to the values of our campus community, and he leveraged his position as president to advance them. Those two facts were central to my decision to endorse the committee's recommendations, as was the fact that the actions recommended by the committee do not seek to erase Jordan's legacy, but rather to put it in proper perspective and to recognize his history on our campus in new ways."

Jordan was president from 1891 to 1913. The university's announcement details his work as a naturalist, ichthyologist and innovative educator before going into the fact that he promoted eugenics, including by using his platform as Stanford president to advocate for policies that ultimately led to forced sterilizations, the university said.

Stanford also plans to move a statue of Jordan's mentor, Louis Agassiz, from Jordan Hall to another location on campus "where it can be given appropriate context." Agassiz was a naturalist who also promoted polygenism, a belief that human racial groups have different ancestral origins and are unequal.

"In David Starr Jordan's history, we identified an unsettling connection between his advocacy for eugenics and his leadership at Stanford, and strong evidence that his influence encouraged students to put these beliefs into practice," committee chair and law professor Bernadette Meyler said in the announcement. "But Jordan's and Agassiz's impact is not limited to the past, because to this day their beliefs continue to cast a shadow on our campus."

In 2018, the Palo Alto school district renamed its Jordan Middle School to Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, spurred by a middle schooler's book report on Jordan's eugenics advocacy.

Stanford decided last year to rename two buildings that had for years carried the name of Father Junipero Serra after two alumnae: Sally Ride, a physicist and the first American woman in space, and Carolyn Lewis Attneave, a psychologist credited with creating the field of Native American mental health.

Debra Satz, whose responsibilities as dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences include the Department of Psychology, will be in charge of the process of determining a new name for Jordan Hall. She will bring her recommendation to the president and provost.

Stanford said it will remove the Jordan Hall lettering from the building "as soon as practicable," along with the Agassiz statue, and the building will be referred to by its number in the Main Quad, Building 420.

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