published on September 17, 2018 - 1:06 PM
Written by Associated Press

(AP) — Stanford University is dropping the name of a controversial 18th century Spanish priest and colonizer from its mailing address and two dormitories.

Junipero Serra led the system of missions in California that “contributed to the destruction of the cultural, economic, and religious practices of indigenous communities and left many tribal communities decimated,” according to the advisory committee that recommended removing his name.

Serra founded the first nine of 21 missions built by Spanish colonists from 1769 to 1823, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Sunday . Native Americans were kept as slave labor and punished if they tried to escape.

The decision by the prestigious private school is the latest example of universities, cities and other institutions abandoning statues or names of controversial historical figures.

Last week, San Francisco removed a statue long decried as racist. The “Early Days” sculpture showed a Spanish cowboy and priest towering over an indigenous person.

The university is seeking to rename its mailing address, Serra Mall, for its co-founder Jane Stanford. Two dorms named for Serra will get new monikers.

“We hope that renaming the two Serra houses and Serra Mall will remove a significant hurt to Native Americans, other members of the Stanford community, and the larger diverse world that Stanford seeks to embrace,” the advisory committee wrote.

The committee acknowledged the “sense of loss” that alumni and others might feel at changing the university’s main street.

But it also said that the Serra name is a source of “genuine pain.”

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