Friday, November 26, 2021

UC Hastings School of Law will be renamed after learning from past founder

UC Hastings College of Law, California’s first law school, will soon cease bearing the name of its founder Serranus Clinton Hastings, whose legacy includes profiting from the murders and displacement of Native Americans in Northern California.

The school’s board of directors voted Tuesday to change the college’s name after years of research and input from members of the Yuki tribe, whose ancestors were targeted by Hastings. The decision came after the school’s Dean and Chancellor David Feigman instructed the Hastings Legacy Review Committee to provide a report and recommendation following an article by the former associate professor detailing Hastings’ role in the murders of Native Americans in the 1850s and 60s. …

In an interview on Friday, Feigman said the report, which was presented to the board of directors on September 11, 2020, “tells a very disturbing and terrifying story of Hastings promoting genocide to his advantage.” It turned out that Hastings, who came to California during the gold rush, paid for and promoted expeditions to Eden and the Round Valleys of Northern California, which led to the death and displacement of hundreds of Yuca Indians, whose lands he later took for himself. Hastings later donated $ 100,000 worth of gold coins to the state to open a law school in San Francisco.

“The consequences of Serranus Hastings’ crimes against humanity are reflected in the conditions prevailing today for the descendants of his victims,” ​​the report said.

The College considers Vice President Kamala Harris and US Representative Jackie Speyer (Hillsborough County) to be among its most famous alumni. Some alumni said the college was slowly removing Hastings’ name.

The issue of renaming the school was never lifted, Feigman said, and instead prioritized other restorative justice initiatives by the college. The report’s findings are an opportunity to “atone” for the sins of the past and begin building relationships with the Yuki tribe, Feigman said in a letter to the board of directors. Previously, Hastings was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.

Since 2017, Feigman said the college has been working to build relationships with members of the Round Valley Indian tribes, including the Yukas and other tribes, including a visit to the Confederation Reservation in Mendocino County. Feigman said his own ambivalence regarding the removal of Hastings’ name has changed, and he, like the board, supports the removal.

“I totally agree with the opinion of many people that Serranus Hastings’ actions were absolutely terrible and not deserving of respect,” Feigman said.

In an article in the Sacramento Bee, Feigman and James Russ, President of the Round Valley Indian Tribes, stated that the tribe’s recurring “main claim” was the removal of Native Americans from California history.

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“Removing Hastings’ name will not eliminate this ongoing insult,” they wrote.

Instead, they advocated for a partnership that would recognize the horrors experienced by indigenous peoples, including the Yuki tribe, and in which the law school would use its resources to help posterity. Feigman said one of those measures would include recruiting middle and high school students from the Round Valley Indian tribes in San Francisco to work with college law professors in court hearings and practice debates.

In 2020, the college established the Indigenous Law Center to expand the school curriculum in Indigenous Law. The college also created a memorial space for the Yuki tribe in the building’s lobby, where the stories of the Yuki people are centered. He also received a $ 25,000 grant to record the stories of Elders Yuki and publish them to students.

“There are many more opportunities for this kind of collaboration,” Feigman said.

California educational institutions are re-evaluating historic building names as the heritage of these namesakes is disputed. In 2020, the University of California at Berkeley renamed Boalt Hall, which housed its law school, two years after the university opposed John Henry Boalt’s anti-Chinese sentiment. Alfred Louis Kroeber’s name was also removed from the University of California, Berkeley building after a committee ruled the work of an anthropologist on Native American remains “immoral and unethical.”

Since the name UC Hastings is enshrined in state law, legislation will be required to consolidate the changes. The college has yet to choose an alternative, Feigman said. The board includes Claes Leeuwenhaupt, a graduate and direct descendant of Hastings.

Joe Cotchett, a trial attorney and prominent sponsor, said he and other alumni pressured the board and dean to change their name.

“We cannot have a public institution with the fame it named after someone who perpetrated the genocide of the native Californian Indians,” he said. Cotchett, who donated $ 5 million to the college’s academic village, said he made it clear at some point that if the name was not changed, he would choose his name from the Cotchett Law Center because he didn’t want his name associated with school.

Following the board’s decision to support the name change, he said he was glad the process was moving forward.

“It will only strengthen my support for the school, and I think it’s the same with the many alumni who acknowledge the good that has been done,” he said.

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