This Elite Law School Is Cutting Faculty

UC-Berkeley

Behind The Racist Walls of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall

UC Berkeley School of Law is responding to the controversy surrounding the legacy of its Boalt Hall.
Boalt Hall, the building which houses the law school, has been closely tied to the law school for over a century—so much so that the building was even dubbed as the law school’s name for some time. Now, that name is facing intense controversy as the racism behind the Boalt name was recently revealed, the Los Angeles Times reports.
A Dark Past
John Henry Boalt, a 19th century San Francisco attorney, played a key role in pushing for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—which banned Chinese from entering the country.
The exclusion act was the first of its kind in that it specifically banned a group of people based on their ethnicity.
The law school’s building was named after Boalt and his wife, Elizabeth Boalt, after Elizabeth offered to pay for the construction of the new building in 1906 as a memorial for her late husband. In 1911, Boalt Memorial Hall of Law was constructed.
According to Berkeley Law, Boalt held strong views towards Chinese, even considering them “too physically and intellectually different” from Americans to assimilate.
“The two races are further separated by fundamental differences in language, in dress, in customs, in habits, and social peculiarities and prejudices. In all these respects, the Chinese differ from us more than any known race,” Boalt had said.
A Push To Rebrand
According to Berkeley Law’s website, the law school’s official name is the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Since early 2008, the law school reports, it has been primarily referred to as Berkeley Law.
But the dark history surrounding Boalt Hall’s name wasn’t widely known until an op-ed by Charles Reichmann, a Berkeley law lecturer, was published.
Now, the law school faces even more controversy as other schools, such as Stanford, the University of San Francisco, and Cal State Long Beach, are being pushed to change building names or drop mascots that are associated with racist pasts.
This month, law school Dean Erwin Chemerinsky will announce his response to whether or not he will remove the Boalt name from the law school’s main classroom building, the LA Times reports. Chermerinsky also will decide what to do with the two endowed chairs established by Elizabeth Boalt.
The Dean’s decision will come after deliberation by a review committee, a town hall meeting, and numerous survey responses from alumni, students, staff, and faculty. According to the LA Times, the law school has received more than 2,500 comments from both those supporting Boalt and those criticizing him.
Asian Americans make up about one-fifth of students in Berkeley’s juris doctor degree program.
For Jeffrey Lin, a current law student of Chinese and Korean descent, keeping the Boalt name is unthinkable.
“The overwhelming sense is that we don’t feel comfortable in a place where the name Boalt is used,” Lin tells the LA Times, “because he was a person who stood for racist and xenophobic ideals and who vehemently didn’t want Chinese here.”
Sources: LA Times, UC Berkeley School of Law, SF Chronicle

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