ISU condemns LMU’s plans for Serra statue, demands its complete removal from campus

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Photo: Harrison Hamm

ISU condemns LMU’s plans for Serra statue, demands its complete removal from campus

By Christina Martinez

LMU’s Indigenous Student Union (ISU) has released a statement after LMU announced the relocation of the statue of St. Junipero Serra on campus grounds.

On Oct. 30, ISU published a statement via Instagram, claiming that LMU’s decision to relocate the statue after its removal is unacceptable and goes against ISU’s founding principles.

“One of our founding goals at ISU has been the removal of the Junipero Serra statue on LMU’s campus,” ISU’s statement reads. “We see this as just one step towards acknowledging that LMU currently resides on stolen land of the Tongva tribe and taking action towards making our campus a safe and welcoming place for Indigenous people and others of marginalized identities and backgrounds.”

ISU’s statement comes almost two weeks after LMU officially confirmed the statue’s status via LMU This Week. In the university’s statement, the statue was said to be undergoing repairs for weather damage to be placed in an unspecified indoor location with “educational context that provides a broader sense of Father Serra’s role in the history and cultures of early California by presenting diverse narratives of his impacts.”

Serra, a Catholic saint best known as the founder of the California mission system, has been a symbol of colonization and oppression for Indigenous and marginalized communities on campus and beyond the Bluff. Earlier this year, many statues of Serra in California were overthrown by protestors or voluntarily removed in response to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

In LMU This Week, the university stated that the statue’s relocation from its original spot outside the Von Der Ahe (VDA) building has been considered for the past several years, saying that there has been an “openly collaborative” conversation over the issue and that they based their decision on input from students, faculty, and leaders. LMU also said they consulted the Committee on Public Art and Images and the William H. Hannon Foundation who had originally placed the statue on LMU’s campus to display the statue in a way that properly contextualizes Serra’s legacy.

ISU’s External Relations Leader Carisa Aguilera says that no ISU members were involved in any “discussion” that included students of Indigenous and marginalized backgrounds.

“[T]he article stated that the university had been discussing this issue with students, however, ISU has not been involved in these discussions, nor are we aware of any student who has been in discussion with the university,” said Aguilera.

ISU also believes that continuing to display the statue is still inappropriate, as it centers the education around Serra and Christian colonizers instead of individuals of Indigenous and marginalized identities.

“While [ISU] agrees that our campus community must learn about the brutal history of Christian colonization, doing so through a public glorifying not an effective form of education, nor will it serve to make students of marginalized identities feel included, safe, and heard on campus,” ISU’s statement reads.

ISU cited LMU President Timothy Law Snyder’s Jun. 16 letter that addressed the University’s response to BLM, saying that completely removing the statue would be a step that LMU could take to fulfill its commitment to increase “the diversity and inclusiveness of [the] LMU community.”

“We are deeply disappointed in the administration’s disregard of LMU’s Indigenous students and furthering of the erasure of Indigenous people,” said Aguilera on the University’s response.

Aguilera says that ISU will be creating and circulating a petition to the LMU community to gather support for the statue’s complete removal. The organization will discuss further actions and a meeting on Nov. 1.

LMU states that the processes to establish a new Serra exhibit are expected to occur in 2021.

Post a Comment