A Message from Chancellor and Dean David Faigman: Law School Name Change | UC Hastings Law

I am writing to you regarding a matter of great institutional importance, the name of our law school. This issue may be familiar to many in our community, but may be new to some, so let me start 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 in California history when crimes were committed against Native Americans often under the guise of the law or, at times, orchestrated by the state of California itself. This historical review led to the conclusion that the first Chief Justice and Attorney General of California, and the College’s founder, Serranus Hastings, were responsible for the murders and brutalities against the native tribes of the Eden and Round Valleys, located in what is today known as Mendocino County. , and especially against the Yuki tribes. It was with this information in hand that the moral imperative to act became evident.

Historical Review, Tribal Outreach and Restorative Justice Initiatives

In the summer of 2017, I formed the Hastings Legacy Review Committee. The committee was tasked with investigating this story further and reaching out to the Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT), the Sinkyone InterTribal Wilderness Council and, most importantly, the Yuki people. The committee made recommendations regarding restorative justice measures the school could undertake to promote healing and reconciliation for the actions of our founder. To dig deeper into the story, I commissioned a white paper on Serranus Hastings’ specific responsibility for the Eden and Round Valleys murders, written by Brendan Lindsay, the author of Murder State: California’s Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 . The committee submitted its findings and recommendations to me in the summer of 2020. During this period, the committee, at times with my participation, met with the duly elected representatives of the federally recognized Round Valley Indian Tribes and, above all, with the members of the Yuki tribe.

Based on feedback received from the committee and direct discussions with tribal leaders, I submitted a formal report to the Board of Directors at their September 2020 meeting with my recommendations. In that report, I noted that the general view was that restorative justice efforts should be our first priority and that discussion of the removal of the Hastings name from the College was both outside the power of the Board to pass of accompanying legislation and not the first priority in establishing a relationship with RVIT and the Yuki people. This focus was the subject of an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee co-authored by RVIT President James Russ and myself.

The focus on restorative justice has led to a number of immediate initiatives, including the establishment of the Center for Indigenous Law, which sets aside space to commemorate and commemorate the history of the Yuki people, including the atrocities committed against them by our namesake. We also established summer public interest fellowships to provide legal support to tribes in Northern California, created the Restorative Justice Advisory Council, and raised funds to support other initiatives between our two communities, including including scholarships.

Board authorizes name change discussions

Over the past five years, the question of whether to change the name of the school has arisen many times, but no consensus has been reached within or between the College and tribal member communities. about this question. However, in late October 2021, The New York Times ran a front-page story that brought the College name issue to the forefront and brought the issue to the fore nationally and with members of the Assembly. California legislature.

After careful consideration, in November 2021 the Hastings Board of Trustees voted unanimously to remove the Hastings name from the school. The board asked me to work with the Legislative Assembly to seek changes to the applicable provisions of the Education Code to implement this decision, a decision supported by Principal Claes Lewenhaupt, hereditary holder of the detained council chair by the Hastings family.

Legislative status

Two bills have been introduced in the California Legislature, AB 1936 (co-authored by, among others, Assemblymen Ramos and Ting and Senator Umberg) and SB 1288 (co-authored by Senators Umberg, Hertzberg and Wiener), which would remove the Hastings name from the school. The Senate and Assembly work together to make AB 1936 the bill codifying the name change and setting out recommendations for restorative justice.

AB 1936 drops the Hastings name. It further provides that “[t]The legislature requests that the board of trustees of the law school founded in the city of San Francisco in 1878, after consultation with representatives of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, a federally recognized tribal government, and its Indian Committee delegates Yuki, make a final recommendation to the Legislative Assembly. AB 1936 points out that this recommendation to the Legislative Assembly should follow the conclusion of “full consultation with the Indian tribes of the Round Valley, a federally recognized tribal government, and its delegates from the Yuki Indian Committee approved by the tribes of the round valley”.

The Order has already begun the consultation process with RVIT and the Yuki Indian Committee. The first consultation between the tribal members and the Council will take place on June 3, 2022, at the regular quarterly meeting of the Council. We expect this consultation process to continue over the next two months. In addition, the College simultaneously consults with the Office of the President of the University of California to obtain their advice on which name to recommend to the Legislative Assembly. According to the schedule, the board of directors must deliberate and submit a name to the Legislative Assembly by the end of July. AB 1936 would then be amended to incorporate the new name before it is passed before the end of the legislature at the end of August 2022. The bill is then submitted to the Governor for consideration.


The road has been long and not always straight to reach this decisive turning point in the history of the College. Having spent my entire professional career at UC Hastings Law, I do not for a moment underestimate the profound nature of this change. I feel it deeply. However, I have come to understand that this is the right path for the College to follow and a path that will ultimately lead to new opportunities and, in fact, national prominence for the law school. This does not take away from my respect for those with different perspectives, as this is an issue on which reasonable people can disagree.

But it’s time to move on. Our campus is growing significantly, in terms of programs, centers, clinics, internships, partnerships with other universities, and physical size. This will give our students expanded opportunities and our school an increased stature. If there ever was a time for a new name, one that reflects the greatness of our law school, it is now.

Ultimately, and for me this is the main thing, we are and always will be this great school of law of the University of California founded in the city of San Francisco in 1878. This school includes all those who have crossed its doors over the 144 years of its existence, an exceptional group of alumni – some of the finest lawyers to practice this distinguished profession – and an incredible group of students, staff and faculty. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, Hastings by any other name would be just as great.

Wishing you all the best,


David L. Faigman

Chancellor and Dean

John F. Digardi Emeritus Professor of Law

University of California Hastings College of the Law

Nancy I. Romero