Tar Rakhra ’20

Hometown: Yorba Linda, CA
Education: Cal State Fullerton
Affiliations: Asian American Law Journal, Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Berkeley Business Law Journal, student representative for the SF Asian American Bar Association

I always thought I’d come to law school and be involved in M&A and negotiations. I never thought I’d do something like representing the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA) in the Boalt name debate.

But during undergrad, I got involved in advocacy at the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) under the Obama Administration. I was a youth engagement intern, so I worked on projects to empower, educate, and inform youth on all the ways they could get involved in their community and tackle certain issues we’re facing.

That’s one of the things that drew me to Berkeley, because we’re one of the few law schools that have a journal that focuses on AAPI rights. But it was also the place where I felt the most comfortable, in terms of the accepting environment.

So when I found out about John Boalt’s racism against Chinese Americans right after we got here as 1Ls it was a lot to process. I remember talking to my fellow AAPI classmates about it, applying textualism, religionism, and legal perspectives, and I think we really grew in the way we tackled this issue. I wish it didn’t have to happened but I’m grateful it happened.

For the town hall, I decided a video was the best way to humanize the debate. I asked for Chinese American students who felt connected or had strong feelings about the paper to bring a quote and sit down in front of a camera and read it. It was important for us to capture their voices and the pain these words cause them so that people who were arguing to keep the name could see how going to school in a building with this man’s name on it affects them.

Walking into the forum I was a little bit nervous. I knew older alums have very strong feelings about the Boalt name. But the way the panel handled it and the civil conversation between young and old alumni was really productive. I also thought it was great to do it in Booth Auditorium. It was as if everyone there was sharing the same home. I learned a lot about why some people strongly oppose changing the name. I understood their points and their beliefs. I may not agree with everything they said, but at least I got a wider exposure from my narrow view on it.

I think John Boalt should be preserved in this school like the way we preserve Earl Warren, who was also not without fault. We should recognize all the good John and Elizabeth Boalt did for us, because the endowment did give us the opportunity to build the school and become the place it is today. But Berkeley Law and the students here today represent new ideals that aren’t reflected by the name Boalt. Therefore, I think it should be changed to something that’s more fitting of our institution. We should also make sure people read that paper.

I’m not looking to erase history. I’m not looking to change the past. I’m looking to build a space for a better future. I think we have a really beautiful opportunity to redefine ourselves and set ourselves up for the next 100 years.

Watch the town hall and Tar’s video here.