Should Berkeley's Boalt Hall be renamed? Berkeley Law Prof cites USF's Phelan Hall example in case for renaming building  | USF in the News |
Under what circumstances should an institution remove a historical name from a building or other campus space, and what principles should guide such a decision?


Since 2010, institutions across the country have renamed buildings associated with white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members, while others have chosen to retain the status quo.


Earlier this month, the University of San Francisco changed the name of a residence hall named for James D. Phelan, a former mayor of San Francisco, U.S. senator and alumnus of the school. Phelan campaigned for re-election in 1920 with the slogan “Keep California White.”


Recognizing the limits of California’s power in the federal system, Boalt proposed an unprecedented move — holding an advisory ballot measure to send a message to Eastern elites that California spoke with one voice on the Chinese. The Chronicle praised this proposal and the Legislature agreed; it was signed into law late in 1877, and two years later the voters by large majorities voted to advise Congress to put an end to Chinese immigration. Boalt’s virulently racist “The Chinese Question” was included in an official report of the state of California, thousands of copies of which were distributed to influence newspapers and elected officials throughout the land. In 1882, largely as a result of California’s lobbying, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law banning a group of immigrants solely on the basis of race or nationality. [...] records of his accomplishments are few — and it is noteworthy that a biography appearing in the year of his death pointed to “The Chinese Question” as his greatest public service.


[via @sfchronicle]