Dear UC Law SF Community,
I write to wish you all a Happy New Year and a healthy and prosperous 2023.
For our great law school, 2022 was a momentous year, starting with the changing of our name. As of January 1st, we are now officially the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco.
As most of you know, the naming decision involved years of serious consideration, with input from many constituencies. Following the final determination, the needed legislation was drafted to align our decision to State law. The process of changing the name has begun in earnest, and will continue through the first half of 2023, as we replace UC Hastings with UC Law SF both digitally and physically across the campus.
Yes, change is afoot. However, what will not change or be lost in 2023 and beyond are the history and tradition of this storied institution, our continued dedication to academic excellence, and our commitment to producing exceptional graduates in law. We are not running from our history; in fact, we have actively confronted it. As we change the name on the walls of our buildings and digital footprint, we remain the school founded in 1878 as the first “law department of the University of California.” We have simply begun a new chapter.
The promise of this new chapter lies in the existing foundation of this law school. It is the legacy of the 65 Club, which included some of the 20th Century’s greatest legal thinkers; it is the faculty, composed of extraordinary teachers and nationally recognized scholars; it is the staff, which constitutes the backbone of the school; it is our tens of thousands of graduates, renowned in their chosen fields; and, most importantly, it is the current generation of students, the leaders of tomorrow.
Beyond the walls of our law school, the world more generally was a hotbed of tumult in 2022. Nationally, the country continues to struggle against forces that would undermine democracy and limit fundamental liberties and civil rights. Internationally, the war in Ukraine is high on the list of international sorrow, which includes the atrocities committed against protesters in Iran, the unrest in Armenia, abuses against women in Afghanistan, and so many other sources of anguish.
It is easy to look back at 2022, and perhaps forward to 2023, and despair for the human condition. And so much is beyond the ability of any one of us to remedy. For me, however, the core lesson of a legal education teaches us otherwise. While we might not have the power individually to, say, save the Amazon rainforest or cure climate change, a legal education has metaphorically given us the power to plant trees. It is that power, wielded individually and collectively, that can change the world.
I found comfort in a story I read in the NY Times about the recent blizzard in the Buffalo area. Although many tragically died in the storm, there were also numerous stories of heroism. Many courageously risked their lives to save those trapped by the storm. And there was tenderness too. The Times reported what it called “the most unlikely blizzard development.” It occurred when Alexander and Andrea Campagna answered a knock at their door during the storm to find nine Korean tourists whose tour bus had become stranded in the snow. The Campagnas invited them in and subsequently “found themselves eating jeyuk bokkeum, a Korean stir-fried pork dish, prepared by some of their guests, on Christmas Eve.” The tourists were able to get back on the road the next night.
Although we are obviously unlikely to ever find ourselves in the Campagnas’ particular position, we will all, at one or more points in our lifetimes, hear knocks on our doors. John Donne, in his famous poem, wisely observed that “[n]o man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
Trained in the law, we have more of an obligation than most to answer those knocks when they come. Our students, staff, faculty, and alumni have been doing just that for 144 years. It is that foundation that will allow UC Law SF to reach ever greater heights of excellence and continue to be one of the nation’s preeminent law schools.
Wishing you and all those you hold dear the best in the coming year.
David L. Faigman
Chancellor and Dean
William B. Lockhart Professor of Law and
John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California College of the Law, San Francisco