It looked like the battle to remove the name of Serranus Hastings from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law was nearly over. They picked out a new name, University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, aka UC College of the Law, San Francisco or UC Law SF and the governor signed a law approving the name change and everything was set to move forward for the new name in 2023. But now there’s a wrinkle.
Chancellor and Dean David Faigman shared with the Hastings community that a lawsuit was filed by descendants of Serranus Hastings and a group of alumni opposing the name change. Despite the setback, Faigman had encouraging words about the name change.
We are disappointed that this group of individuals wants to interfere with our progress. As you all know, the legislation that allowed us to move forward with the name change was the result of thoughtful research, conversations, and reflective meetings. I stand behind that important work, and do so with the pride of knowing that our entire community was able to participate.
I remain committed to moving forward with the name change, and to continuing our restorative justice efforts with the support of the campus community. We will continue to monitor the lawsuit and keep the campus community informed along the way.
The decision to move away from the Hastings moniker was a long time in the works. The final decision came after a restorative justice project that was started because Serranus Hastings was directly involved in the massacre of Native Americans. Hastings financed financed Indian hunting expeditions — that is, killing humans for sport — which contributed to his fortunes. Back in 2017, John Briscoe, a Distinguished Fellow of the Law of the Sea Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law and an adjunct professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, wrote about the problematic actions of Serranus Hastings (and Leland Stanford) who both have law schools named after them.
It’s hard to sweep aside such atrocities as relics of a time gone by — we are talking about organized hunts to kill human beings, a move Hastings uniquely benefited from financially. Then that money was used to create a legacy, such that, 150+ years later, generations of law school grads carry some sort of allegiance to the name.
So much so that some are willing to sue the state to keep the name of a genocider on their LinkedIn profile.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).