Law School to Remove Name of Founder Who Sponsored Massacres of Native Americans

The University of California Hastings College of the Law, looking to separate itself from its founder's past, has voted to change its name, the Associated Press reported.

The school's Board of Directors voted on November 2 to remove the name, authorizing the change in collaboration with state lawmakers.

The school was founded by Serranus Clinton Hastings, a former chief justice of the California Supreme Court. According to historians, Hastings funded the slaughters of the Yuki people of Mendocino County and helped to orchestrate and finance campaigns that legalized lynchings, kidnappings and slavery against the Indigenous tribe.

The university had been making strides to reckon with its founder's history since 2017. Among these efforts include providing free legal services to the Yuki, honoring the Indigenous lives lost through a campus memorial, and establishing an Indigenous Law Center.

The decision is being praised by former alumni of the university and the Yuki tribe.

"I'm not terribly proud of carrying the Hastings name on my law license. There is no forgiveness in this," San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown said.

Yuki descendant Natasha Medel said, "I look forward to standing next to you and doing what is right for my people."

Legislation to change the name is expected to be introduced next week.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hastings Law Exterior
The University of California Hastings College of the Law, looking to separate itself from its founder's past, has voted to change its name. Above, the facade of the school in the Civic Center neighborhood of San Francisco on August 23, 2018. Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Hastings Law School graduates include Vice President Kamala Harris.

"[Reinvestigation] work has raised our awareness of the wrongs committed by the college's namesake and the ongoing pain they cause, and our decision is that we can no longer associate our great institution with his name," said Carl Robertson, who chairs the Board of Directors.

The attacks on the Yuki were part of a three-year series of slaughters and kidnappings by settlers known as the Round Valley Settler Massacres that by some estimates claimed at least 1,000 Indian lives.

In 2020, the law school at the University of California, Berkeley stripped itself of a 19th-century namesake who espoused racist views that led to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. John Boalt's name was removed from a school building after a three-year process.

Joseph Cotchett, a trial lawyer and alumnus who has donated about $10 million to the school, told the Chronicle that if the Hastings name remained, he would pull his name from its newly opened Cotchett Law Center.

"I will do everything in my power as a 55-year alumnus of Hastings to change the name, and to honor the Indian tribes that were massacred and were taken advantage of," Cotchett said.

However, the Hastings name for the college is enshrined in state law and can't be changed without first changing the law.

"Hastings definitely needs a name change," Wiener said. "The idea that this institution would be named for someone who exterminated Native Americans is untenable. To me, it's a no-brainer."

Mock Argument
The Board of Directors will begin the process of legally removing the Hastings name from the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Above, student Michelle Freeman (top left) practices her argument in a moot courtroom at Hastings on March 13, 2017. AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File