University seems reluctant to change name though
UC Berkeley has agreed to review a request by student groups who want to see Barrows Hall renamed. But it’s not the first time the university has agreed to review the name of the academic building, named for David Prescott Barrows, an anthropologist and former president of the university.
In fact, it’s been over five years since students first asked the school to rename Barrows Hall.
The Building Name Review Committee announced on July 10 its plans to review a proposal from the African American Student Development Office and a handful of student groups to take Barrows’ name off of the building. Barrows Hall houses a number of social science departments, including African American Studies, Women and Gender Studies and Political Science.
Most criticism of Barrows, who led Berkeley from 1919 to 1923, is centered on comments he made while reorganizing education in the Philippines or about his experience there.
He also made comments that the students consider controversial, including when he wrote in his 1905 book A History of The Philippines “the history of the black, or negro, race begins only with the exploration of Africa by the white race, and the history of the American Indians, except perhaps of those of Peru and Mexico, begins only with the white man’s conquest of America.”
The submitted proposal notes that the demand was first made in 2015 as part of 10 demands by the Black Student Union.
The proposal to the building committee from the groups said “Barrows’ words and actions were anti-Black, anti-Filipinx, anti-Indigenous, xenophobic, and Anglocentric.”
“His actions form a striking pattern of racism and use of institutional power to repress desire for independence from the United States.”
The groups accuse Barrows of “Anti-Blackness” and said he “infantilized and dehumanized Filipinx people.”
The proposal concluded that “the decision to continue honoring Barrows constitutes tacit approval of a significant and lasting legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, and violent oppression.”
“This is harmful, and Barrows cannot stand as a symbol of what we value on the Berkeley campus,” it stated.
Whether the students will be successful is up in the air considering how the university has dragged its feet so far in renaming the hall. When first proposed in March 2015, the university’s chancellor declined to comment on the request, according to SF Gate.
In 2016, the university said they were undertaking a review of the names of all 150 buildings on campus, according to the Daily Cal.
In August 2017, the editorial board of the Daily Cal referred to the renaming process as “glacial.” They criticized a report in April 2017 from the Building Naming Task Force Project which recommended against unnaming Barrows Hall.
The task force, comprised of students, professors and administrators, concluded it “could not and should not make specific ‘un-naming’ recommendations based solely on our personal assessments” and suggested a mechanism for submitting complaints about the names of buildings.
It also warned that renaming buildings wouldn’t solve problems, because names chosen now could also come under criticism later. For this reason “name removal should be a rare choice, reserved for situations in which there is a strong and sustained community consensus that the current name is inconsistent with important campus values,” the task force stated in 2017.
The Building Name Review Committee will take public comments for the next two to five weeks, according to the announcement on its website.
However, the committee does not rename buildings, leaving that issue up for another day if the building is indeed unnamed. In 2015, the Black Student Union wanted it named after cop killer Assata Shakur.
The Building Name Review Committee is also reviewing requests to rename LeConte Hall and Kroeber Hall.
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