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California’s Hastings College of the Law, will change its name to remove the mention of its founder

California’s Hastings College of the Law – which counts Kamala Harris as an alum – will change its name after nearly 150 years to remove the mention of its founder, Serranus Clinton Hastings, who is linked to mass killings of indigenous people

  • UC Hastings College of the Law is part of the California university system and is named for Serranus Clinton Hastings 
  • A report commissioned by the university found Hastings paid for expeditions in the state that caused the death and displacement of hundreds of Yuki Indians 
  • Hastings then stole the Yuki tribe land for himself 
  • Some of the school’s most famous alums are Vice President Kamala Harris and Congresswoman Jackie Speier 
  • University President David Faigman said that after reading the report and coming at it from a place of ambivalence, now believes it is the right thing to do 


California‘s first law school will change its name to get rid of the connection to the man who established the San Francisco institution nearly 150 years ago – a former Congressman and Supreme Court justice who was found to play a significant role in the mass murder of indigenous people.

UC Hastings College of the Law is part of the California university system and is named for Serranus Clinton Hastings, who came to California during the Gold Rush.

A report commissioned by the university president found that Hastings paid for and promoted expeditions in the state that caused the death and displacement of hundreds of Yuki Indians, whose land he later stole for himself. 

Hastings, who served in Congress from 1845 to 1847 and was the first chief justice of the California Supreme Court, donated $100,000 in gold coins to create the law school in 1878.

Among the school’s most famous alums are Vice President Kamala Harris, who graduated in 1989, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier. 

UC Hastings in San Francisco, which will likely change its name 

An image of Serranus Clinton Hastings, a former Congressman who came to California during the gold rush and is implicated in the mass killing of indigenous tribes

An image of Serranus Clinton Hastings, a former Congressman who came to California during the gold rush and is implicated in the mass killing of indigenous tribes

Vice President Kamala Harris is Hastings' most famous alum

Vice President Kamala Harris is Hastings’ most famous alum

‘The effects of Serranus Hastings’ crimes against humanity echo in the conditions prevailing today for the descendants of his victims,’ the report said. 

University President David Faigman, who commissioned the review, said that after reading it and coming at it from a place of ambivalence, he now believes this is the right thing to do. 

‘I absolutely agree with a lot of people’s views, that Serranus Hastings, the acts that he committed were absolutely horrific and ought not to be honored,’ Faigman said. 

Some alums have claimed that the school moved too slowly to remove Hastings’ name. However, Faigman said the college was merely prioritizing other initiatives.

The school has worked since 2017 to make peace with the Round Valley Indian Tribes, which include the Yuki.  

In 2020, Hastings started an Indigenous Law Center, meant to produce a curriculum that could better serve indigenous legal matters.

Joe Cotchett, a trial lawyer who donated $5 million to Hastings

Joe Cotchett, a trial lawyer who donated $5 million to Hastings

Cotchett threatened to remove himself from the law center that bears his name if the school didn't make the change

Cotchett threatened to remove himself from the law center that bears his name if the school didn’t make the change

Rep. Jackie Speier of California is a Hastings alum

Rep. Jackie Speier of California is a Hastings alum

There is also a space for the Yuki Tribe in the lobby of the building and the school got a $25,000 grant to record and share the narratives of Yuki elders.  

University of California institutions have been taking stock of some of the names of their buildings in recent years, with UC Berkeley especially leading the charge.

One building already removed the name of anthropologist Alfred Louis Kroeber after finding he committed ‘immoral and unethical’ work on the remains of Native Americans. 

Prominent donor Joe Crotchett, a trial lawyer who paid $5million for the school’s academic village, said alumni have been unimpressed with the slow move to remove Hastings’s name.

‘We cannot have a public institution with the prominence that it has named after someone that committed genocide on Native California Indians,’ he said. 

Crotchett said he would pull his own name from a law center named after him if they did not make the change. 

The state of California will need to pass a law to be able to remove Hastings’ name given the school’s status as a state institution. 

Crotchett is happy the school is listening.

‘It’s only going to increase my support for the school, and I think that’s the same with a lot of alumni that recognize the goodness that’s been done,’ he said.

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