Students Propose Stevenson Name Change

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Stevenson College might get a rebranding. 

About 15 UC Santa Cruz students met at Stevenson Event Center on April 22 to discuss a proposed name change to Stevenson College. In lieu of its original namesake — mid-century Democratic politician Adlai Stevenson II — supporters want to dedicate the 53-year-old residential college to a person more consistent with the university’s views. One proposal included distinguished UCSC professor emerita Angela Davis. 

Cameron Elliott, UCSC second-year and Student Union Assembly representative campaigning for the name change, said the move was motivated by Stevenson’s lukewarm positions on civil rights law.

“Stevenson was against enforcing Brown v. Board,” Elliott said. “And he had other problematic positions as well. He was for the Vietnam War.”

Best-known for his 1952 and 1956 presidential campaigns, Stevenson lost twice on the Democratic ticket to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the race of 1956, he voiced opposition to aggressive enforcement of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that found segregation unconstitutional in public schools. He feared that such a move would alienate the Democratic Party’s voter base in the southern U.S. 

Elliot was also quick to point out that Stevenson College is home to the Rosa Parks African American Theme House (R.PAATH), a student-initiated living-learning space centered around Afrikan, Black and Caribbean culture, art and politics. He said there’s a disjunct between Stevenson’s politics and the themed house’s goals. 

At the town hall, the discussion about Stevenson’s civil rights positions moved into a larger conversation about anti-Blackness. One attendee voiced a need for more than just a name change to fix race-related issues on campus. 

Elliott endorsed Angela Davis, an American communist, political activist, scholar and short-time member of the Black Panthers, as Stevenson’s replacement. UCSC hired Davis, who has written over a dozen books on feminism, race and critical theory, as a professor in 1991. She taught in the feminist studies and history of consciousness  departments.  

Elliott will present the renaming proposal again this Sunday at the Stevenson Event Center, for an event titled “What’s in a Name? A Dialogue on the Name and Values of Stevenson College.” 

Additional reporting by Julian Barragan