California law school named after man who funded Native American murder changes name


The University of California Hastings College of the Law does not have the authority to change the name, which is written in state law. But the board voted unanimously on Tuesday to allow the dean to work with the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom to introduce the legislation required to do so.

“We never backed down from this story, or I never did, and I wanted to face it,” said David Faigman, Chancellor and Dean. “And then the question was, ‘What to do about it? And that went to recommendations to identify initiatives to reconcile and restore justice with descendants who feel the historical trauma and pain of what their ancestors went through. ”

The college – the state’s first law school with notable alumni including Vice President Kamala Harris – was founded by and named after Serranus Hastings, California’s first chief justice.

Hastings, with state support, funded the forcible displacement of the Yuki people from the Round Valley which led to the murder of many tribal members.

The earliest the bill can be introduced is Jan. 3, when the legislature meets again, and the college plans to recommend a name by then, Faigman told CNN.

While there is no shortlist, according to Faigman, the college is considering a “geographic or California-specific designation,” similar to the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of California at Berkeley.

The name “University of California San Francisco”, which was initially considered, is not available because it is already in use for a group of medical schools and health universities.

Focus on “restorative justice”

Faigman and the college were initially not opposed to retaining the Hastings name for the college in large part due to the complexity involved. They wanted to focus on “restorative justice” and “what was in our power,” he said.

After learning of Hastings’ misdeeds, soon after Faigman became dean, he formed the Hastings Legacy Review Committee in 2017 to work with the Yuki people and explore ways the college can fight. against the legacy of Hastings.

In recent years, the committee has led to the founding of an Indigenous Law Center, bringing in visiting professors for courses on tribal law and the courts, and creating a memorial space in the main building of the administration, according to Faigman.

Other recommendations from the committee, which Faigman says are in the process of being implemented, include broadband access and educational opportunities on the Round Valley reserve.

“It’s something that I think our community can benefit from,” Faigman told CNN. “And I hope we can bring benefits to their community.”

The New York Times reported on Hastings’ legacy and the college’s controversial naming last month, which Faigman says “has, to some extent, complicated restorative justice efforts because it all became a question. name”.

In a statement, Faigman said the school condemns the “horrific acts [Hastings] perpetrated. ”

“These acts were unforgivable then and are unforgivable today,” Faigman wrote in the Oct. 27 statement. “The generational pain of living descendants of the Serranus Hastings-funded and state-backed genocide remains deep and pervasive.”
The state may have to pay Hastings’ descendants the $ 100,000 he donated to found the school, with interest, as required by law if the college “ceases to exist.” But if changing the name is the same as the college ceasing to exist, it would be up to a court to decide whether legal action should be taken.

As one of Hastings’ descendants sits on the board and voted for the change, Faigman said neither the college nor the descendant had been in contact with the whole family to determine the likelihood of a trial.

Hastings is the latest institution to attempt to distance itself from the controversial legacy of its namesake. Last year, Columbia University removed the name of a slave owner from one of its dormitories.

Last year, Princeton University withdrew President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its school of public policy and residential college. Wilson once called racial segregation a “benefit” and said the slaves “were happy and well cared for.” He refused admission to African American men and sought to exclude them from the history of the school.


Nancy I. Romero

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