UC Hastings to Rebrand After Review of Namesake’s Genocidal History

Serranus Hastings, a former California Supreme Court justice who founded the school in 1878, organized the killing of Native Americans.

Published August 9, 2022

Edited by Alex Pasquariello
UC Hastings to Rebrand After Review of Namesake’s Genocidal History
Photo by San Francisco Chronicle/Carlos Avila Gonzalez via Getty Images / Contributor / Hearst Newspapers / Getty Images

  • University of California Hastings College of the Law is the oldest law school in California.
  • The Hastings Legacy Review Committee in 2017 began examining Hastings’ involvement in the genocide of Native Americans.
  • The change requires the approval of the California State Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

University of California Hastings College of the Law may soon be known as the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco.

The UC Hastings Board of Directors voted unanimously to remove “Hastings” from its name, Chancellor David L. Faigman announced last week in a letter to the UC Hastings Community.

The school expects to change its name by January 2023. The name change recommendation will have to be approved by both houses of the California State Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The rebranding effort dates back to 2017 when Faigman appointed a committee to examine the college’s namesake’s involvement in the genocide of Native Americans.

Serranus Hastings was a California Supreme Court justice who founded the school in 1878. However, in the 1850s he was involved in the mass killings of Yuki People in the Round Valley and Eden Valley region of California, Faigman said in his letter.

As the Hastings Legacy Review Committee examined Hastings’ involvement in the genocide, the college built a relationship with Round Valley Indian Tribes (RVIT) and its Yuki Committee, who consulted on the decision to change the school’s name, Faigman said.

“The Board and its Consultation Committee met with representatives from RVIT and their Yuki Committee five times over the summer to consult on the name of the College and various restorative justice efforts,” Faigman said.

The law school also received letters from stakeholders regarding the potential change, 78% of which supported removing Hastings’ name from the school, according to the announcement.

The genocidal history of the college’s namesake was thrust into the spotlight in July 2017 when adjunct professor John Briscoe wrote a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed questioning why California’s oldest law school continued to use the Hastings name though he was “promoter and financier of Indian-hunting expeditions in the 1850s.”

In October 2021, the New York Times published an article further detailing Hastings’ genocidal past. On the same day that story was published, Faigman told the college community: “There is no effort from me or the College to oppose a name change. My commitment is to do what we can to bring restorative justice to the Yuki People…and other Indigenous communities who were affected by Serranus Hastings’ horrific acts.”