Law Schools

UC Hastings law school will advocate for name change because of namesake's role in massacres

  • Print.


Photo illustration by Sara Wadford/ABAJournal/Shutterstock.

The University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco will press California lawmakers to change the school’s name because of its founder’s role in the massacres of hundreds of Native Americans.

The law school’s board of directors on Tuesday authorized David Faigman, the chancellor and dean, to work with the California legislature and other stakeholders to change the school name. A press release is here.

The Hastings name “is written into state law” and a name change requires legislation, the press release said.

The school is named after Serranus Clinton Hastings, who donated $100,000 to start the law school in 1878, the ABA Journal reported in February 2018. Hastings was a politician, lawyer, landowner and California’s first chief justice.

Hastings helped organize a group known as the Eel River Rangers that killed hundreds of Native Americans living near land that Hastings claimed for himself, according to historical research. Other killings were carried out by a Hastings employee who watched over his cattle and horse ranches.

The action by the Hastings board of directors follows an Oct. 27 New York Times story that highlighted Hastings’ role in masterminding Native American massacres.

In response to the story, Faigman emphasized that he was committed to provide restorative justice to the Yuki Indians and other Native Americans targeted by Hastings.

After he became dean in 2017, Faigman commissioned a historian to study Hastings’ responsibility for genocide and created a legacy review committee to recommend actions that the school could take to provide restorative justice.

The school has announced several steps toward restorative justice, including exploring pro bono help for Native Americans in Round Valley, where the massacres happened.

Faigman commented in the press release.

“Four years ago, I initiated a robust process for engaging Native Californians whose tribes were affected by the deadly acts of Serranus Hastings,” Faigman said. “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.”

Alumni of the school include Vice President Kamala Harris and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle report in their coverage of the board action.

Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is “not terribly proud of carrying the Hastings name on my law license.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.