Officials at UC-Berkeleys law school are thinking about changing the name of its main classroom building.

Suleman Kazmi

UC-Berkeley Law School May Shed Connection To 'Racist' Figure

KCBS Radio Midday News
September 12, 2018 - 3:04 pm
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The UC-Berkeley School of Law may change the name of its main classroom building, known for generations as Boalt Hall, due to the controversial history of  its namesake.

The structure is named after attorney John Boalt. His widow Elizabeth Boalt donated money in 1906 to construct the original Boalt Memorial Hall of Law. But Boalt advocated for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and harbored prejudiced views of Native Americans and people of African descent.

The law school moved to a new building in 1951, and Boalt's name came with it. 

“His principal public legacy is…one of racism and bigotry,”  Berkeley's law school committee recently wrote

As institutions around the country reevaluate their connection to historical figures with intolerant legacies, the law school committee suggested removing all references to Boalt. His name appears in many areas, including the law school's alumni association, student association and a human rights committee, among other places, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Many alumni even refer to themselves as Boalties, suggesting that discarding the name could be fraught. 

"Of course, they may and will continue to do so if they wish. The issue, though, is whether we should officially use the name 'Boalt' in light of John Boalt’s racist statements,"  Dean Erwin Chemerinsky wrote on September 10. "I know this is an issue that generates intense feelings on all sides."

Before making a final decision, Chemerinsky and the committee will review public comments. They're being accepted through October 31. 

Written by Arooba Kazmi.