The names of two University of California Berkeley buildings were removed Wednesday after a formal review found their namesakes promoted racist ideas.
The process for removing the names LeConte Hall and Barrows Hall has been years in the making, according to a university spokesman. The public raised concern a few years back, which initiated the review by university officials, and workers have begun removing the names.
Brothers John and Joseph LeConte came to Berkeley from southern, slave-owning families and, according to UC Berkeley, used scientific language to promote racist ideas.
David Prescott Barrows served as UC president in the early 1900s and, according to the university, wrote “the white, or European, race is, above all others, the great historical race.”
It’s the first time an academic building at Berkeley has lost its name. In January, Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley’s School of Law, was renamed because of the racist writings of its namesake, John Henry Boalt, a 19th-century Oakland attorney.
For the university, the move is about removing the historic ties to these people, and it hopes doing so will strengthen inclusion and belonging at the campus.
“What’s happening today is very important for the university and very important for the campus community, particularly for members of our campus from the Black community and other communities of color,” university spokesman Dan Mogulof said. “While names may only be symbolic, those names have importance and weight, and when you have a building named for someone that had clearly racist views, that interferes with people’s ability to have a sense of belonging, and it also contradicts the values of the institution.”
Until the buildings are renamed, they will be known as Physics South (Old LeConte Hall) and Physics North (New LeConte Hall); and the Social Sciences Building (Barrows Hall).