Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne has appointed a new committee of faculty, students, trustees and staff to recommend principles for decision-making on requests to rename campus buildings and sites named for historical figures.

Paul Brest

Paul Brest (Image credit: Norbert von der Groeben)

The membership of the Advisory Committee on Renaming Principles and its charge are posted on the president’s website.

The group will be chaired by Paul Brest, professor emeritus and former dean of Stanford Law School. An undergraduate and a graduate student will be members of the committee and will be recommended shortly by the Associated Students (ASSU).

Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a blog post in November that a previous committee had been unable to reach a conclusion on principles for determining when the university should consider removing the name of a historical figure from a campus landmark. He wrote that “moving forward requires making use of all of the committee’s extensive research and deliberations to date but also asking others, with the benefit of fresh eyes, to complete the process.”

The president wrote that after meeting with students and others in the community concerned about the issue, he would appoint two new committees, one to focus on renaming principles and the second to apply those principles to the case of Junipero Serra, the 18th century priest who established the California mission network. Students and others have urged the university to rename streets and buildings named for Serra.

In a charge letter to the first committee, which will focus on the principles for renaming, Tessier-Lavigne said its work would have “intergenerational impact long after our own time at Stanford.”

“The development of principles to inform decision-making is critical to ensure consistent analysis and treatment of different naming issues in the future and to give members of our community a clear understanding of the basis for such decisions,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote in the charge letter to the group.

“The specific charge to the committee is to weigh all relevant considerations and develop criteria for making such decisions. The guiding principles will be most useful if they can be applied to all cases, rather than tailored to a specific type of request.”

After the committee is up and running, it plans to seek input on renaming principles from the Stanford community.

The second committee, which will apply those principles to the specific case of Junipero Serra, will be put together in the coming months. Tessier-Lavigne said the goal remains for the entire process to be completed before the end of the academic year.