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UC Berkeley School of Law Wants to Rename Boalt Hall

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Along the lines of the recent push across the nation to remove monuments and tributes to historic individuals that held racist beliefs, the University of California at Berkeley is considering changing the name of its law school.

The Berkeley School of Law, also known as Boalt Hall, is named after John Henry Boalt. Boalt was a Nevada attorney who moved to California in 1880. Upon his death, his widow, Elizabeth Boalt, donated parcels of property in San Francisco to the University of Berkeley in order to build a building for the law school. However, recently, John Boalt's writings have faced increasing criticism due to racist views he expressed in the 19th century.

Renaming a Legacy

For the students and alumni at Berkeley's school of law, there are folks on both sides of the issue, but unlike the fights over controversial monuments, Berkeley's progressive politics are really shining through, as individuals who you wouldn't expect are speaking out in support of keeping the name.

As noted by the ABA Journal, John Boalt expressed views about stopping Chinese immigration because Chinese and Caucasian people don't assimilate together, and he also espoused negative views about Native Americans and African-Americans.

However, even some Asian-American alumni don't want to change the name, but rather want to keep it as a reminder of our flawed past. Others in the Berkeley community believe that the school can be renamed for Boalt's widow, Elizabeth.

Despite the support for keeping the Boalt name, nearly 40% of the 2,000 Berkeley law community members surveyed believe the name should be changed. Just over 10% want the name changed to honor Elizabeth Boalt.

At the helm of the campaign to change the name is noted constitutional law scholar, and law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky. However, even if Chemerinsky agrees that the name should be changed, the process requires several more levels of approval.

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