Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 27, 2022

UC-Hastings Law School To Change Its Name In July Due To Founder's Role In Native American Genocide

Following up on my previous posts (see links below): A Message from Chancellor and Dean David Faigman, Law School Name Change:

UC Hastings (2022)I write you regarding a matter of great institutional importance, the name of our law school. This issue may be well known to many in our community but perhaps new to some, so allow me to begin with some background. More details on the College’s efforts are available here.

Shortly after becoming chancellor and dean in 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle published a guest essay describing atrocities attributed to Serranus Hastings, the College’s namesake, in the late 1850s. This prompted my own research into this sordid chapter of California history when the crimes were committed against Native Americans often under color of law or, at times, orchestrated by the State of California itself. This historical review led to the conclusion that California’s first chief justice and attorney general, and the College’s founder, Serranus Hastings, bore responsibility for killings and brutalities against the native tribes of the Eden and Round Valleys, located in what today is known as Mendocino County, and most of all against the Yuki tribal people. It was with this information in hand that the moral imperative to act became evident. ...

During the last five years, the question as to whether to change the school’s name has repeatedly arisen, but no consensus was reached either within or between the College’s and the tribal members’ communities on this issue. However, in late October 2021, the New York Times published a front-page article that put the issue of the College’s name front and center and brought the matter to national prominence and to members of the California Legislature.

After much consideration, in November 2021, the Hastings Board of Directors voted unanimously to remove the name Hastings from the school. The board directed me to work with the Legislature to seek amendment of the applicable provisions of the Education Code to effect that decision, a determination supported by Director Claes Lewenhaupt, the hereditary holder of the board chair held by the Hastings family. ...

The first consultation between Tribal members and the Board will take place on June 3, 2022, at the Board’s regularly scheduled quarterly meeting. We anticipate that this consultative process will continue over the next two months. In addition, the College is simultaneously consulting with the Office of the President of the University of California seeking their input on the name to recommend to the Legislature. The anticipated timeline has the Board of Directors making its deliberations and conveying a name to the Legislature by the end of July. AB 1936 would then be amended to incorporate the new name before it is passed prior to the conclusion of the legislative term at the end of August 2022. The bill then goes to the Governor for his consideration.

This has been a long and not always straight road to reach this momentous juncture in the College’s history. Having spent my entire professional career at UC Hastings Law, I do not for a moment discount the profound nature of this change. I feel it deeply. However, I have come to understand that it is the right course for the College to take and a path that ultimately will lead to new opportunities and, indeed, national prominence for the law school. This does not diminish my respect for those with different perspectives, as this is an issue upon which reasonable people can disagree.

But it is time to move on. Our campus is expanding greatly, in terms of curriculum, centers, clinics, externships, partnerships with other universities, and physical size. This will give our students expanded opportunities and our school increased stature. If there was ever a time for a new name, one that captures the greatness of our law school, this is that moment.

Ultimately, and for me this is the bottom line, we are and will always be that great University of California law school founded in the City of San Francisco in 1878. That school encompasses all those who have walked through its doors over 144 years of its existence, a group of outstanding alumni—some of the best lawyers to practice that eminent profession—and an incredible group of students, staff, and faculty. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, Hastings by any other name would be as great.

Reuters, UC Hastings Law, With Namesake Tied to Killings, Will Pick New Name by July

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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