Every institution that has had the good fortune to survive, let alone thrive, for 138 years, as has UC Hastings, can look back and identify certain signature moments that defined it.
The first such moment in our history, of course, was Serranus Clinton Hastings’ gift of $100,000 to the State of California to found the first law department of the University of California. Serranus Hastings, the first Chief Justice of the young upstart state, had the foresight to see the need to bring formal training to the lawyers and policymakers that would guide the state and the nation in the turbulent and exciting years ahead. Chief Justice Hastings could not, of course, have anticipated either the great success of his adopted state or that of his namesake law school. But that is the nature of signature moments, for only in retrospect can their full import be measured.
Despite the inherent hindsight needed to measure such moments in an institution’s history, there occur junctures that are well understood to be of critical significance when they first appear. These times either form the continuing character of the institution or are looked back upon with regret as missed opportunities. UC Hastings has had many such moments in its long history and we have taken great advantage of them.
For instance, at the start, the institution was located close to the courts and seats of government. This was understood then, and is understood today, as a formative aspect of our identity. UC Hastings is an urban campus whose lifeblood pulses with that of San Francisco’s.
And perhaps the point in time that helped define the school most dramatically in the twentieth century was Dean David Snodgrass’ creation of the 65-Club. This brilliant innovation brought the jurisprudential lions of the profession to UC Hastings, including such historic figures as William Prosser, Richard Powell, Jerome Hall, and William Lockhart. With them, our visibility, and our rankings, soared.
But times change. The spark that ignited the 65-Club innovation was the mandatory retirement age that many top law schools adhered to, a vestige of an earlier era. As every entrepreneur knows, innovation is not any one decision; it is the process of decision making. As times change, so must we.
The other great principle of successful innovation is to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. In short, a successful innovator identifies those signature moments in an institution’s history and innovates into those opportunities.
We stand at the precipice of such a moment.
UC Hastings received $36.8 million from the State of California to build a new classroom building at 333 Golden Gate Avenue, immediately adjacent to Mary Kay Kane Hall (MKK Hall at 200 McAllister). This building will partly replace the classrooms and offices now located in Snodgrass Hall (198 McAllister) and 50 Hyde (the Annex). We are just at the start of the planning process and the ultimate outcome of the transformation of the UC Hastings campus will depend, quite simply, on whether we have the courage to use this opportunity and fully leverage the State of California’s investment in our future.
The preliminary plan is to erect a state-of-the-art classroom building at 333 Golden Gate. It will be connected to MKK Hall by several sky-bridges, if we are successful in our fundraising, and a walkway that will provide plentiful green space and an accompanying quad. It could be, and should be, spectacular. A place where students can gather and call home.
But as anyone who has tried to renovate a kitchen knows, the basic allocation of dollars never covers the actual cost of what is needed, much less what is desired. The state has provided enough to build a basic structure; it is up to us to make it something we can be proud of. Every dollar that we can add to the state’s generous contribution to this project will enhance the quality and the grandeur of the UC Hastings’ experience for future students as well as alumni returning home.
But 333 Golden Gate is just the start of the innovation that is possible at this moment in our history. UC Hastings has already executed a letter of intent with the University of California San Francisco – the premier health university in the world – to construct student housing on the current site of Snodgrass Hall, to be available to both UC Hastings and UCSF students. And plans are on their way to renovate or replace the classrooms in the Annex at 50 Hyde, with the prospect of additional student housing above them. In addition, the Tower and its Great Hall – a cathedral space with towering and majestic ceilings – will be renovated thereafter.
The vision that drives this project is the creation of a graduate UC campus in the Civic Center. UC Hastings will be the hub of an academic village in the heart of San Francisco. With the prospect of considerable collaboration with UCSF, as well as the possibility of being joined by other UC graduate programs, our immediate environment could be fundamentally transformed.
Our ultimate mission as a law school, first set out by Serranus Hastings himself in 1878, is to train first-class lawyers, graduates that will go on to lead the city, the state, and the nation. So, please be assured that, concomitant with our efforts to transform our physical plant, we have invested, and continue to invest, even greater attention to the academic and professional success of our students. We already have an extraordinary student body, an array of renowned academic programs, clinics, institutes and centers, and a faculty of engaged scholars that are recognized for their excellence. While it is true that great buildings do not make a law school great, a great law school deserves great buildings.
Today, we confront one of those signature moments in the history of UC Hastings. But time is short, for once the ink on the blueprints dries, the moment will pass. In the short time that we have to innovate into this opportunity, I will devote my utmost to realizing this moment. I ask you all, alumni, administrators, faculty, staff and students, to join me.
Over the next several months, I will be working with a formidable group of people to help us realize this vision. Principal among these are Professor Leo Martinez, who will chair the 333 Golden Gate Capital Campaign, and Chief Development Officer Eric Dumbleton, the leader of Alumni Development at UC Hastings. Joining us will be a group of stellar alumni soon to be named to Professor Martinez’s Committee, with the Honorable Willie Brown serving as Honorary Chair.
As we move forward, there will be many ways for the UC Hastings community to contribute to this project. Our immediate need is for donations to support this bricks and mortar project. Our long-term need will be to help our students afford a first-class education that was once nearly free with state support; today, that seems a quaint anachronism. Giving opportunities will range from buying a brick to changing the name from 333 Golden Gate to something more fitting of a great institution.
I look forward to working with you all to realize this vision.
- David Faigman