The Legal Beat
Berkeley Law School Dumps ‘Boalt Hall’ Name Over The Whole ‘Virulent Racism’ Thing
Posted on Tuesday November 13, 2018
John Henry Boalt was a scumbag robber baron who institutionalized racism by pushing for anti-Chinese immigration laws and enjoyed the occasional intellectual musing about exterminating other races. Rich people from the 1800s are a panoply of vicious sociopaths who threw their names on the sides of buildings in a vain hope that society will forget the human misery they left in their path. Sounds… timely.
But the reckoning always comes for these tinpot Ozymandiases. Sometimes the arc of retribution takes a century, but it will always come. They will always be exposed and torn down.
Today, the University of California is taking the proverbial sledgehammer to its own ugly edifice by announcing that the law school will recommend to the university that it fully end its historical association with the “Boalt Hall” moniker:
“Whether to keep the formal association between John Boalt and the Berkeley Law was never a simple question: it implicates competing values, and is not easy to answer,” [Berkeley lecturer Charles] Reichmann said. “In the end, though, I think the relevant question was whether the Berkeley Law School of the 21st Century wishes to honor someone whose greatest public legacy was working to exclude Chinese people from the United States, and whose only legacy to the law school was his money.”
And so it ends. The school will try to find some way to honor Boalt’s widow, who was the one who actually gave the school all the Boalt money anyway, but will abandon honoring the name.
Law schools make all sorts of deals with dubious people in the name of cash. Sometimes the way these schools prostrate themselves is flatly embarrassing. But in the end, the law school marches on. New students and faculty will embrace modernity and shed their distasteful pasts. Berkeley is just the latest in a long line of schools to take a step like this and it won’t be the last.
For John Henry Boalt, the monument to his vile legacy will end.
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.