California law school dropping name of founder who profited from killings of Native Americans

The UC Hastings College of Law is dropping the name of its founder, Serranus Clinton Hastings, whose legacy includes profiting off the killings and displacement of Native Americans, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The University of California Hastings College of the Law Board of Directors voted today to authorize UC Hastings leadership to work with state legislators and other stakeholders to change the College’s name,” the school’s board of directors said in a statement last week

“UC Hastings was founded in 1878 by Serranus Hastings, who perpetrated genocidal acts against Native Californians in the 1850s in the Round and Eden valleys,” it added. 

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The board’s decision came after the law school's dean and chancellor, David Faigman, commissioned a report from the Hastings Legacy Review Committee, which submitted its findings in the summer of 2020.

Faigman told the Times the report “told a very disturbing and horrific story of Hastings promoting genocide to his own benefit.”

It found that Hastings, who moved to California for the Gold Rush, paid and promoted expeditions in the Northern California regions that resulted in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of Yuki Native Americans and seizure of the tribe's land.

Hastings later donated $100,000 in gold coins to the state to establish the law school under his name, the Times reported. 

“The effects of Serranus Hastings’ crimes against humanity echo in the conditions prevailing today for the descendants of his victims,” the report said.

Board of Directors Chairman Carl “Chip” Robertson said the board has worked with members of affected tribes for the last four years to help address the trauma inflicted by Serranus Hastings.

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“We know that some members of our community are attached to the school’s name because of the College’s wonderful 143-year history, unrelated to Serranus Hastings. But this change is a critical step in addressing our founder’s role in Native Californian genocide,” Robertson said in a statement. 

UC Hastings established the Indigenous Law Center in 2020 and created a commemorative space for the Yuki tribe in their lobby, the Times reported.

Due to the name of UC Hastings being codified in state law, legislation will be required to cement the name change. 

Faigman said the school has not decided on an alternative name, the Times noted.

Another California university, UC Berkeley, has removed four names from its buildings in recent years amid a historical review of the legacies of the namesakes. 

Among them was Alfred Louis Kroeber, the founder of human anthropology in the American West, whose name was removed for his “immoral and unethical” treatment of Native Americans.