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Berkeley Law students meeting after class.

Law School Changes Controversial Name

The University of California, Berkeley School of Law has decided to remove a controversial symbol from their building’s name, The Hill reports.

The law school’s Boalt Hall, named after John Boalt, a 19th century Oakland attorney who made racist comments against Chinese people and helped push the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, officially had the name removed last Thursday. Boalt Hall will now officially be known as The Law Building. It is the first time a Berkeley facility’s name has been removed due to a namesake’s character or actions, according to a press release by the university.

“It’s incredibly important to confront racist symbols, like John Boalt’s name on a building, because these symbols act to reinforce the history of white supremacy in our institutions,” Berkeley professor Paul Fine, co-chair of the Building Name Review Committee, says in the release. “And, they can make students who learn about this history then feel excluded, like there is an endorsement of that racism by the institution itself.”

THE PROCESS OF NAME REMOVAL

Prior to actually removing the name on Thursday, the university’s Building Name Review Committee did extensive research and surveying of the Berkeley Law community, including holding a live town hall meeting, to ultimately decide to remove the name.

“His principal public legacy is…one of racism and bigotry…John Boalt’s positive contributions to the university do not appear to outweigh this legacy of harm,” concluded a 2018 report by the committee.

The committee members voted last October in majority to recommend that Boalt’s name be removed from the building. UC President Janet Napolitano ultimately approved of the decision.

Sources: The Hill, UC Berkeley News