Stanford University has announced that it is changing the names of two buildings that currently honor Junípero Serra (right), an 18th-century Roman Catholic priest who created missions throughout California. While Serra is considered a hero by many and was declared a saint by Pope Francis in 2015, many Native Americans contend that Serra worked to destroy the cultures and beliefs of those who lived in California before the missionaries arrived. In addition, the university said that it will seek approval from Santa Clara County and the U.S. Postal Service to rename Serra Mall (below), the pedestrian and bicycle mall at the front of the Stanford campus that serves as the university's official address, as "Jane Stanford Way," to honor one of the co-founders of the university. The university will not seek to rename Serra Street on its campus.
A statement from the university cited several reasons for the decisions. "Serra's establishment of the mission system is a central part of California history, and his life's work led to his canonization by the Roman Catholic Church in 2015," the statement said. "At the same time, the historical record confirms that the mission system inflicted great harm and violence on Native Americans, and Stanford has several features named for Serra even though he played no direct role in the university's history."