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Confronting genocidal legacy, UC Hastings advances name change

The Board of Directors for the University of California Hastings College of the Law on Tuesday authorized the law school’s leadership to work with state legislators to change the college’s name because of its founder’s genocidal acts against Native Americans in the 1850s.

Changing the name of UC Hastings, the law school founded in San Francisco in 1878 by former California Supreme Court chief justice and state attorney general Serranus Hastings, will require a change in state law, and the vote Tuesday paves the way for that to happen.

The school’s chancellor David Faigman in 2017 had organized a Hastings Legacy Review Committee to investigate Hastings’ legacy, and a resulting report Faigman released last year detailed hunting expeditions that resulted in the deaths or dislocation of hundreds of Yuki Indians as Hastings took possession of large parts of Eden Valley and Round Valley in Mendocino County.

Faigman said in a statement announcing the board’s vote Tuesday:

Four years ago, I initiated a robust process for engaging Native Californians whose tribes were affected by the deadly acts of Serranus Hastings. … The time has come to recognize that changing the college’s name is an important step in that process. I am committed to working diligently to do so.”

The school has also worked with members of affected tribes in the area, including the Yuki, on restorative actions including founding an Indigenous Law Center and creating a public memorial to the Yuki people at the UC Hastings campus near San Francisco’s Civic Center.

Board of Directors chair Carl “Chip” Robertson acknowledged that some alumni and community members are attached to the law school’s name given its long history, but said:

… this change is a critical step in addressing our founder’s role in Native Californian genocide.”

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