UC Berkeley reviews proposal by student groups to dename Barrows Hall

File of UC Berkeley's Barrows Hall.
Xiaoye Yan/File
The Building Name Review Committee is currently reviewing a July 9 proposal by campus student groups, such as the Black Student Union and Reclaim, demanding that Barrows Hall be denamed.

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The UC Berkeley African American Student Development, or AASD, Office wrote a proposal July 9 to the Building Name Review Committee demanding that Barrows Hall be denamed.

This effort began in 2015 when the Black Student Union, or BSU, wrote a list of demands to former chancellor Nicholas Dirks — one of which called for the building’s denaming, according to Melissa Charles, co-author of the proposal and assistant director of AASD. The Building Name Review Committee sent a campuswide email Monday stating that the proposal is under review.

“This unnaming process was established to justify why the names of folks that perpetuated racism and other forms of oppression shouldn’t be on buildings at UC Berkeley,” Charles said.

The proposal alleged that the building’s namesake, David Prescott Barrows, perpetuated anti-Black, anti-Pilipinx, anti-Indigenous, xenophobic and Anglocentric views.

Furthermore, the proposal said continuing to honor his legacy would be harmful to Black and Brown students and faculty on campus.

“We challenge all campus leaders, faculty, staff, and students to think systematically about what more needs to be done to repair damage done by Barrows,” the proposal states.

Many student groups, including the BSU and Reclaim, pushed the process forward so Charles and Takiyah Jackson, co-author and director of AASD, could write the proposal, Charles said.

Charles added that she wanted to uplift student voices who had been advocating to dename Barrows since before she began working on campus.

“It’s really important to uplift the work of the students,” Charles said. “I know the proposal had my name and Takiyah’s name on it, but I never want for students’ voices to be lost.”

She added that she felt disheartened that it took national conversations about racism to move the process of denaming Barrows forward.

Campus lecturer Joi Barrios-Leblanc was involved in some of the initial demands to dename the building.

The Fall 2019 Filipinx Summit Report included another demand to dename the building due to Barrows’ perspective of the Philippines. According to Barrios-Leblanc, Barrows was academically complicit in the U.S. colonization of the Philippines.

Barrios-Leblanc alleged that the denaming of Barrows sends a message that UC Berkeley recognizes the atrocities that the Pilipinx community faced from the U.S. government.

ASUC President Victoria Vera added that she felt the review of the proposal was long overdue.

Vera said the denaming was one example of student activism, and it was time for campus to acknowledge the work that community leaders have been doing.

“This was initiated by community leaders,” Vera said. “True change is rooted in community and solidarity.”

The proposal also contains a call to action for administration to invite the student groups that demanded the denaming to educate the campus community on Barrows’ “true legacy.”

The Building Name Review Committee is asking for feedback responses from the campus community about the proposal for the next two to five weeks, according to the campuswide email.

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.