UC Berkeley Battles Students Over 'Offensive' Building Names

Students want to rename a hall after cop-killer Assata Shakur

University of California, Berkeley students are angry that members of the administration are openly resisting a student body-led effort to rename "offensive" buildings on campus.

A year and a half ago, Berkeley's administrators decided to take on a major "assessment" project, where they planned on reviewing each campus building's name for any associated, unsavory history that could trigger Millennials to violent fits of social justice-inspired rage.

But now, 18 months later, students tell the Daily Californian student newspaper, no buildings have switched names, and they're starting to feel very uncomfortable — and a little like the Berkeley administration doesn't care if they're agitated by the slightest whiff of an offensive biography.

“Many were hopeful” when the university said it would review building names in the wake of concerns about Barrows Hall, “but more than a year later, the committee tasked with reviewing building names instead simply recommended creating yet another committee,” the paper said, claiming that nearly every building on Berkeley's campus honored a "racist."

Barrows Hall is named after former UC Berkeley president David Barrows, whose white supremacist ideology informed his anthropological work on the Philippines and regions of Africa during the early 1900s. LeConte Hall is named for the first UC Berkeley president John LeConte and his brother Joseph, who manufactured munitions for the Confederate army. Boalt Hall is named after John Boalt, an attorney and judge whose racist beliefs helped drum up support for the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Students, the Californian concluded, shouldn't "have to continue to sit in classrooms housed in buildings that honor men who oppressed their ancestors."

The thing is, administrators say, none of the building names were really problematic enough to change. Barrows was the superintendent of schools in Manila while the Philippines was under American control, and went on to serve as Berkeley's president for a brief time in the early 20th century. Little of his work is considered "white supremacist," but apparently, his mere appearance in the Philippines during a time of colonization is enough to tarnish him for eternity.

But, it also turns out that the student-proposed solution to the "Barrows problem" was just as problematic. According to Campus Reform, the kids wanted Barrows Hall renamed after Assata Shakur (also known as Joanne Chesimard), a member of the Black Panthers who was convicted of murdering a police officer in 1977, escaped prison and now lives in exile in Cuba. The FBI lists Shakur as a "domestic terrorist" and a member of the "extremist group," the Black Revolutionary Army.

Not exactly an inoffensive building name.


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