UC Berkeley School of Law dean recommends removal of ‘Boalt’ name

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UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky announced Tuesday his recommendation to eliminate the Boalt name from the school’s 1950 wing, affiliated organizations and activities, in an effort to distance the law school from John Boalt’s racist statements.

Chemerinsky said in the announcement that he had taken into consideration work done by the Committee on the Use of the Boalt Name tasked with gauging law school community reactions to removing the Boalt name. He added that he had received more than 600 messages since September, with about 60 percent in favor of “eliminating” the name and 40 percent opposed.

The removal of the Boalt name from the part of the law school building will be recommended to the campus Building Name Review Committee to be finalized, according to Chemerinsky. The law school administration will encourage affiliated organizations to discontinue the use of Boalt in their names and activities. Many have already done so.

“This is solely about the official use of the Boalt name for part of our building and for our organizations and activities. … It does not change the ‘branding’ of the law school in the larger legal and public community,” Chemerinsky said in the announcement. “As it has been for the past decade, we will continue to refer to ourselves as Berkeley Law.”

John Boalt’s wife, Elizabeth Boalt, however, will continue to be honored because of her “very generous” contributions made to the law school — contributions that were meant to honor the legacy of her husband. The law school administration will look for more ways to honor Elizabeth Boalt moving forward.

In addition, Chemerinsky said in the announcement that the law school will be taking steps in the near future to “ensure that the racism underlying the Chinese Exclusion Act be remembered.”

“John Boalt said racist things, especially about those of Chinese ancestry, and also about African-Americans and Native Americans,” Chemerinsky said in his announcement. “We must remember the racism he expressed as it is part of the history of our country and region and was said by someone whose name we have been associated with for a century.”

Francesca Munsayac is the university news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.