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UC Berkeley Law School De-Names Itself ‘To Confront Racist Symbols’

By  Eric
Berkeley California University of California at Berkeley, students with Sather Tower or Campanile tower in background with clouds and color.
Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

One of the most prestigious public law schools in the country has removed its own name after the Building Name Review Committee discovered an original donor for the law school’s building expressed racist sentiments back in the late 1800’s. 

According to the Associated Press, the Building Renaming Committee was formed several years ago after Charles Reichman, a law professor at the university, published a speech revealing that John Boalt, the attorney for whom the law school was named, was racist toward Chinese people. 

The news agency also revealed that, in 1877, Boalt delivered a speech arguing that Chinese people should be removed from the country because they were incapable of assimilating properly. Notably, the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted in 1882, and the news agency contends that “the movement filtered up” after the speech was delivered. 

According to The New York Times, the speech was titled “The Chinese Question,” which is broken down into subsections including physical peculiarities, intellectual differences and differences of temperament, and “hatred, engendered by conquest, or by clashing of national or race interests.”

Paul Fine, a biology professor at the university who was chosen to co-chair the Building Name Review Committee, believes that “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,” reports the Associated Press. 

The Times reports that Carol Christ, the chancellor of UC Berkeley, and Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, have both approved of removing Boalt’s name from the law school. 

This is the second time in the last few years that a university in the UC system has renamed a school. 

In 2014, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake surprised biology professor Francisco Ayala with an extraordinary 80th birthday present: Due to his international acclaim and dedication to his field, the school of biological sciences would be renamed in his honor. 

However, the university stripped his name from the school several years later, following sexual harassment accusations from four women and a subsequent investigation.  

According to the Orange County Register, a lawyer for three of the four accusers said that the professor made “verbal comments that are wildly inappropriate and sexually charged” and engaged in inappropriate physical touching. 

Ayala resigned from his position as professor, according to a statement released by the university

“I deeply regret that what I have always thought of as the good manners of a European gentleman—to greet women colleagues warmly, with a kiss to both cheeks, to compliment them on their beauty—made colleagues I respect uncomfortable,” said Ayala, who was born and raised in Spain, according to Science Mag.

“It was never my intent to do so. Nor do I wish to put them, my family, or this institution through the lengthy process of further investigation, hearings, appeals, and law suits,” said Ayala. 

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