A bill to officially change the name of University of California, Hastings College of the Law to University of California College of the Law, San Francisco (UC Law SF) was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom during the weekend.
Since the late 2010’s, there has been a movement to change the name of UC Hastings due to the racist past of the college’s namesake, Serranus Clinton Hastings. Between 1856 and 1859, a string of genocidal acts were committed in what is now Mendocino County, with the incidents now known as the Round Valley Settler Massacres. According to multiple contemporary reports, a ranch owner and former California Supreme Court Justice, Hastings, contributed to the massacres by holding town-hall meetings where settlers could air grievances against the Yuki tribe, even if they were made up. These meetings were used in building up opposition against the tribes to drive them out of the Round Valley, by any means necessary. In 1859, Hastings and ranch workers were more directly involved by murdering hundreds of natives as revenge for murdering his horse, as well as running a forced labor camp.
Two decades later, in 1878, Hastings gave $100,000 to help build a new college in San Francisco, with college officials naming it after Hastings in gratitude. Hastings was also offered and accepted the role as the inaugural Dean of the college.
In the 2010’s, professors began reporting on Hastings past again in papers, and in 2020, a UC Hastings study gave a full story on their founder’s past. Later that year, the George Floyd incident sparked numerous institution renamings across the country. Numerous former Hastings alumni and politicians, such as former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, advocated for a name change. This sparked both UC Hastings to agree to a name change and a bill to be written to make it official.
The bill, Assembly Bill 1936, authored by Assemblyman James Ramos (D-San Bernardino) will change the name of the law school starting in 2023, as well as institute new rules for the terms of law school directors. This ill include requiring all vacancies occurring on the board of directors, including a vacancy of the heir or representative of S.C. Hastings, to be filled by the Governor and approved by the Senate.
With the exception of a few abstentions, AB 1936 quickly moved up in the Assembly and Senate during this session, culminating in a 38-0 Senate vote and 750-0 Assembly vote last month. The bill was subsequently sent to the Governor’s desk where it was signed into law during the weekend.
“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” said Governor Newsom at the bill signing. “Today’s measures continue to move these efforts forward. I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”
The UC Hastings name change
David Faigman, the Chancellor and Dean of UC Hastings, added in a statement, “I have launched a Name Change Committee of key campus leaders to work with students, staff, and faculty to assess and recommend decisions that will operationally transition us from UC Hastings College of the Law to UC College of the Law, San Francisco. This work will range from detailed changes to our website, email addresses, building signs, journal names, student organization names, and much more. Additionally, we will prepare a suite of new logo designs and a comprehensive marketing plan to get the word out to alumni, employers, judges, law schools, prospective students, US News voters, etc.
“Although the effective date of the new name is January 1, I have not yet made a decision as to the exact date when we will “go live” on the new name. I want to initially confirm that we have ample time and resources for us to make all of the above changes and will communicate accordingly throughout this semester. That said, the switch will likely happen sometime in 2023. Suffice it to say, a campus celebration will be in order to mark that moment. Until then, we remain UC Hastings.
“This is an exciting time for the College, and I cannot wait for the new signs and banners to go up around our growing campus, and to see all of you wearing newly branded “UC Law SF” gear. I am thrilled to enter this new chapter with all of you!”
However, while now official, possible lawsuits may halt the change.
“I understand why they did it, but I don’t think they know the damage this will do,” said a former alumnus who wished to remain anonymous, and is currently considering a lawsuit against the College. “If Hastings goes, a lot of alumnus will have degrees with the name on them. It’s a great college, but people looking it up may not find it and that can hurt the prospects of a lot of people. The name change will hurt a lot of alumnus in their careers or starting their careers. This should have been more gradual or a dual name situation. Some are celebrating, and you are seeing it from them, but a lot more are not, and the media is not really hearing from them. But they will.”
Gov. Newsom is expected to continue signing and vetoing bills during the week.
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