UC Berkeley removes John Boalt's name from law school building citing racist writings

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- UC Berkeley officials removed the name Boalt Hall from a law school building Thursday morning after discovering John Boalt's racist beliefs.

"It came to light a few years ago that John Boalt had a checkered past when it came to race relations in California," explained Assistant Dean Charles Cannon.

Cannon said a professor made the discovery while doing some research.

"Boalt delivered a famous speech in 1877 that arguably led to the creation to the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was virulently racist. He then published that document and distributed it throughout the country," Cannon said.

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A committee was then formed to research the issue and discuss removing his name.

"Ultimately we concluded his legacy wasn't consistent with the ideals of the university and that the name should be removed," said Cannon.

Jiuyu Zhang is a third year law student at Berkeley from China. Boalt's speech legitimizing anti-Chinese racism had an impact on her.

"As a foreign student here in the U.S., it is kind of harsh to see these comments especially when you are alone here in the states. It's definitely very harsh," Zhang said

The removal of his name made her very happy.

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"I feel the law school has nurtured a diverse and inclusive environment for all the students who study here," she said

Other students we talked to agree and only wish it had happened sooner.

"I have heard alumni and people who like him, Boalt, are upset but I think that we shouldn't be honoring racists with our name and I am really proud of the school for doing this," said law school student Idrian Mollaneda.

The letters were pried off the wall at 7 a.m. Students were then notified that it had happened.

"I was excited to get the email this morning that it was finally down. It's been a long time coming. The student organizers who made it happen worked so hard," said law student Abbey Flynn.

University officials say they do not plan to re-name the building, saying this was a de-naming. They also say this is not an effort to erase history, pointing out they will have a permanent exhibit at the school explaining what happened.
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