A campus Building Name Review Committee is looking through proposals to change the names of two different halls. This was first reported by the SF Gate. The report states that LeConte and Kroeber Halls are the two buildings up for review. LeConte Hall was already voted in favor of having its name removed back in mid-June by the faculty.
Read more about the proposals and history behind the names below.
The Building Name Review Committee is reviewing proposals to remove the names of Joseph and John LeConte and Alfred Kroeber from campus. The renaming of LeConte Hall seems almost a foregone conclusion; the faculty of the Department of Physics already overwhelmingly voted in favor of removing the name in mid-June. The LeConte brothers grew up on a plantation with 200 enslaved individuals and, when the Civil War broke out, they used their scientific acumen to help the Confederacy manufacture gunpowder.
After the war, Joseph LeConte used his platform as a respected natural scientist to advocate for white supremacy. He argued Black people were inherently inferior and called "the sudden enfranchisement of the negro ... the greatest political crime ever committed." In his work, he fought for what he perceived as racial purity.
"I regard the light-haired blue-eyed Teutonic and the negro as the extreme types, and their mixture as producing the worst effect," he once wrote. "… It seems probable then that the mixture of extreme races produces an inferior result."
The LeConte name was already removed from a Berkeley elementary school in 2018.
There will likely be far more controversy over the Kroeber Hall proposal.
Kroeber is one of California's most famous early anthropologists, his name inextricably linked with that of Ishi, an Indigenous man believed to be the last survivor of the Yahi tribe and written about in "Ishi in Two Worlds." That book was written by his wife Theodora. The Kroebers were also parents to fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin.
"Alfred Kroeber was a complex human being who sought to create and share knowledge and was influential in the overall development of his field," reads the Kroeber Hall un-naming proposal. "Challenging his legacy may not be universally popular."
The proposal says Kroeber's work with Ishi had a "troubling power dynamic." Ishi lived in the UC anthropology museum, where he was tasked with performing for and interacting with visitors. It also criticizes Kroeber's practice of taking Indigenous remains and funerary items without consent, which is now illegal in California.
"Alfred Kroeber is not an appropriate symbol for the University of California, Berkeley or any welcoming campus," the proposal argues. "Celebrating his legacy with the honorific naming of Kroeber Hall sends a harmful message to Native American students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley, deters prospective students, and hinders repair of a damaged relationship with Native Californians and all Indigenous people."