Rename Janss Steps at UCLA

Rename Janss Steps at UCLA

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Michael Penny started this petition to UCLA

In 1925, Edwin and Harold Janss sold 375 acres of Wolfskill Ranch to the University of California in order to make UCLA the centerpiece of their developing village, and the university named its grand staircase after them in return.  The Janss Investment Company proceeded to develop the ranch land into Westwood Village, a second Hollywood with shops and theaters intended for whites only.  The company used racial covenants to explicitly prohibit People of Color from owning property or patronizing businesses in Westwood.  These property contracts, as quoted in the 1925 California Supreme Court case Janss Investment Co. v. Walden, read:

"No part of said real property shall ever be leased, rented, sold or conveyed to any person who is not of the white or Caucasian race, nor be used or occupied by any person who is not of the white or the Caucasian race whether grantee hereunder or any other person."

In 1965, Janss Steps were the site of a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. titled “Segregation Must Die”. A small plaque to the side of the steps commemorates this speech, and the steps are still officially named after the very men who segregated Westwood.

Today, the racist history of the Janss Investment Company is largely unknown to UCLA students and other residents of Westwood.  Janss Steps and its adjoining hill are one of the most recognizable locations at UCLA. Janss hill is UCLA’s college quad, a beautiful site and a beloved part of UCLA’s campus for students, faculty, and community members alike.  Its name should glorify one of the countless Bruins who have changed the world for the better instead of men who worked to institutionalize racism in Los Angeles.

Numerous other universities including Clemson, Oregon, Oregon State, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and USC have recently removed the names of people with racist ties from their buildings.  This petition and its signatories call for UCLA to join them by recognizing the racist history of Westwood and changing the name of Janss Steps.  The name of segregationists does not belong anywhere on a campus dedicated to diversity and inclusion. 

“The time is always right to do what is right” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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