UC Berkeley unnames Barrows Hall, LeConte Hall

Photo of Barrows Hall
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
According to a statement from UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ, Barrows Hall and LeConte Hall are in the process of being removed or covered up. The two halls will be unnamed due to the racist legacies of their respective namesakes, former UC president David Prescott Barrows and brothers John and Joseph LeConte.

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After years of student advocacy, campus officials announced today that Barrows Hall and LeConte Hall at UC Berkeley will be unnamed due to their namesakes’ racist histories.

The names of the two buildings are currently being physically removed or covered up, according to a statement from UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. Until new names are selected for the buildings, the two structures in the former LeConte Hall will be called Physics North and Physics South, and what was formerly Barrows Hall will be referred to as the Social Sciences Building.

“The decisions reflect a new urgency being felt by U.S. civic and higher education leaders to remove building names and monuments that memorialize individuals who expressed racist and dehumanizing views,” a UC Berkeley press release states.

Barrows Hall was named honorifically after 1919-1923 UC president David Prescott Barrows. According to the proposal to unname Barrows Hall, his actions were “anti-Black, anti-Filipinx, anti-Indigenous, xenophobic, and Anglocentric.” The proposal adds that Barrows has a history of white supremacy and lists several examples of racist writings in Barrows’ work.

LeConte Hall was named honorifically after brothers John and Joseph LeConte, who were early and “prominent” members of UC faculty, according to Christ’s statement.

The two grew up on a plantation in Georgia with an estimated 200 slaves, according to the proposal to unname the hall. Christ’s statement adds that both brothers contributed to the Confederate States Army during the Civil War, and Joseph LeConte was outspoken with “deeply racist views.”

According to Christ’s statement, students, faculty and staff have asked for the former Barrows Hall to be renamed since 2015, and the campus Black Student Union called to rename the former LeConte Hall in 2015 as well.

“While I regret the time it has taken to respond, I am grateful for the continued advocacy and activism that have led to this necessary action,” Christ said in the statement.

The recommendation to remove the names Barrows and LeConte came after unnaming proposals were submitted to Christ’s Building Name Review Committee in July. The committee approved the recommendations this fall, which were then approved by Christ and UC President Michael Drake, according to the UC Berkeley press release.

Hundreds of campus community members have showed support for the unnaming, Christ’s statement adds.

The unnaming of the former Barrows Hall and LeConte Hall comes after the name “Boalt Hall” was removed from the Law Building. According to Christ’s statement, the Building Name Review Committee is considering a proposal to unname Kroeber Hall and may reach a conclusion in weeks.

“A building name is more than a symbol,” Christ said in the statement. “Those who we choose to honor reflect who we are and what we believe in.”

Maya Akkaraju is a deputy news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.