David Starr Jordan, the first president and first chancellor of Stanford University, was a eugenicist, a promoter of the belief that the human race could be improved by restricting the reproduction of "inferior" populations such as disabled people and people of color. He believed in a hierarchy of races with white people at the top and Black people at the bottom. He promoted the forced sterilization of disabled people. He founded organizations dedicated to the promotion of eugenicist and racist policy. He was one of the most powerful American eugenicists of the early twentieth century.
Jordan Hall is named in his honor on Stanford's campus.
Jordan was neither the last nor only eugenicist to be affiliated with Stanford University. Throughout Stanford's history, eugenicists have taught, researched, and promoted eugenics on campus. Many of the most influential eugenicists in American history have walked Stanford's sandstone arcades. The history of Stanford is inseparable from the history of eugenics.
The Stanford Eugenics History Project was started by a group of Stanford undergraduates to explore these histories and to examine the continuing legacies of Stanford's role in the Eugenics Movement. However, our goal is not only historical: after extensive research on Jordan's eugenic legacy, we are calling for the renaming of Jordan Hall. Our formal request is available here. Through this website, we tell the stories of Jordan and the Stanford eugenicists who followed him, hoping to emphasize the harm eugenics has caused and continues to cause disabled people and people of color.
The history of eugenics is not over. Eugenics, race science, and unjust hierarchies of human value still pervade American society. But it does not have to be this way. We hope that, in preserving and presenting this history, we can conceptualize a better world at Stanford and beyond.