Last year, a New York Times article shed light on the namesake of the prestigious San Francisco law school the University of California, Hastings, Serranus Hastings.
Hastings was California’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1849, owner of significant land holdings in Mendocino County, and the promoter and financier of the Round Valley Settler Massacres of 1856-1859.
According to a press release from UC Hastings, the historical Hastings “perpetrated genocidal acts against Native Californians in the 1850s in the Round and Eden Valleys.”
Last year, UC Hastings administrators and leaders decided to change the school’s name by collaborating with members of Mendocino County’s Round Valley Tribal Community (the group that subsumed the historical Yuki people).
As per an article from Thomas Fuller, the San Francisco Bureau Chief for the New York Times, the process of choosing a new name has proven laborious and expensive. UC Hastings officials are seemingly stalled on the issue of what the school’s name will actually be, or whether the school should change its name at all.
Fuller quotes Professor Marsha N. Cohen at UC Hastings who states “It seems like it would make more sense to use the money for things that would be more beneficial.”
The estimated cost of the name change, according to Fuller’s article, would range between $2 and $3 million. This expenditure would update the school’s signage, email, internet presence, stationery, brochures, and any aspect of campus that represents the school’s name.
Fuller reported that the law school’s board is recommending the school change its name to the “University of California, College of Law, San Francisco,” because the city of San Francisco is “world-class…well known for dynamism and innovation — qualities that distinguish our law school as well.” Another reason for this proposed name is that it conforms to the naming conventions of the other University of California campuses using the city of where it is located as the prominent marker of the school’s identity (i.e. UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara).
The members of the Yuki tribe collaborating with UC Hastings in the name change process are not satisfied with this proposal.
Steve Brown, the president of the Round Valley Yuki committee, told Fuller, “I want payback,” Brown told me. “You can call it reparations or social justice or whatever. I want our name on there.” The Yuki committee is proposing the name “Powen’om”, meaning “one people”, to honor the native people lost because of Hastings’ policies.
The historical Hastings purchased what is known called Eden Valley in northeast Mendocino County during the Gold Rush. Hastings and a group of other men begin killing “all the Indians they could find in the mountains.” While hunting natives, the group allegedly poisoned a rancheria’s food stock with strychnine.
Whether it be the cost or the complexity of finding the school a new name, UC Hastings’ emphatic call to rebrand after revelations of its namesake’s brutality toward Mendocino County’s native peoples came to light is stalled as of now.
Read the rest of Thomas Fuller’s examination of the issues surrounding UC Hastings’ name change here.