The Scandal of Cal: Land Grabs, White Supremacy, and Miseducation at UC Berkeley

The Scandal of Cal: Land Grabs, White Supremacy, and Miseducation at UC Berkeley
6 x 9, 320 pages.
ISBN: 9781597146210.

By Tony Platt

The University of California, Berkeley—widely known as “Cal”—is admired worldwide as a bastion of innovation and a hub for progressive thought. Far less known are the university’s roots in plunder, warfare, and the promotion of white supremacy. As Tony Platt shows in The Scandal of Cal, these original sins sit at the center of UC Berkeley’s history. Platt looks unflinchingly at the university’s desecration of graves and large-scale hoarding of Indigenous remains. He tracks its role in developing the racist pseudoscience of eugenics in the early twentieth century. He sheds light on the school’s complicity with the military-industrial complex and its incubation of unprecedented violence through the Manhattan Project. And he underscores its deliberate and continued evasions about its own wrongdoings, which echo in the institution’s decision-making up to the present day. This book, above all, illuminates Cal’s culpability in some of the cruelest chapters of US history and sounds a clarion call for the university to undertake a thorough and earnest reckoning with its past. It is required reading for Cal alumni, students, faculty, and staff, and for anyone concerned with the impact of higher education in the United States and beyond. 


"A profound alternate institutional history, one that sees the long arm of institutional racism implicated everywhere." Publishers Weekly
"For former UC Berkeley Assistant Professor Tony Platt [...] dismantling notions of the campus’ allegedly incurable liberalism is his current life’s work. Platt taught criminology at Berkeley in the 1970s; now semi-retired after a long academic career, his upcoming book, The Scandal of Cal, is a counter-history of the school that questions its reputation as a bastion of progressive politics." Soleil Ho, San Francisco Chronicle
"UC Berkeley trumpets itself as the nation’s leading public university, home to the Free Speech and other social justice movements, as an engine of innovation, and as a bastion of academic inquiry and excellence. Yet, Platt writes, it refuses to honestly reckon with the dark parts of its past, a history that involves colonialism, plunder, grave-robbing, the promotion of white supremacy and modern atomic warfare. [...] Platt is convincing in showing the university’s missteps from its founding to the present day." Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside
"With the turn of each page, the Berkeley-based writer lays out the facts, figures and atrocities committed by the university as it took the homelands and remains of Native Americans in the United States and Indigenous people in other countries. [...] A bubbling sense of outrage begins a hard boil as Platt rolls out the narrative of Cal's juxtapositional posturing and shameless self-promotion of its origins as rosy and its historical footprint as that of an innovative, progressive institution." Lou Fancher, East Bay Express
"Academic and researcher Tony Platt is the author of Grave Matters and The Scandal of Cal and has long been an advocate for Native interests in the repatriation process. [...] The Berkeley administration reports that remains of over 9,000 individuals still lie in their collections. Platt believes the actual numbers may be significantly higher, as many as 20,000. His review of the records found 'shaky math, selective data, arbitrary definitions and unknown unknowns,' as he writes in The Scandal of Cal." Tyler Walicek, Truthout
"[The Scandal of Cal] makes the case that the school has often failed to live up to its ennobling hype, or at least neglected to recognize its sins. [...] Platt’s larger point, and it’s a good one, is that Cal, as the university is colloquially known, largely chooses to ignore its significant blemishes." Chris Vognar, San Francisco Chronicle
“An important addition to ongoing calls for social, political, and epistemic justice for Native peoples in California and beyond, The Scandal of Cal reminds us that a historical narrative which honors Native American resistance and sovereignty helps us to envision decolonized futures.” Cutcha Risling Baldy, author of We Are Dancing for You: Native Feminisms and the Revitalization of Women’s Coming-of-Age Ceremonies
“Writing with prosecutorial fervor, Tony Platt marshals extensive research and six decades of personal experience to charge the University of California, Berkeley, with moral errors of deep significance—sins of both commission and omission.” Benjamin Madley, author of An American Genocide: The United States and The California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873
“Platt peels back the façade of an institution that professes a commitment to social justice and shrouds itself in a legacy of student activism. His central argument is broadly applicable across academia.” Damon B. Akins, co-author of We Are the Land: A History of Native California
“A rich and rightly disturbing addition to the emerging literature of the sordid side of the history of the West. Platt’s scholarly and moving volume may well nudge the overlords of Berkeley to begin the slouch toward their atonement.” John Briscoe, Distinguished Fellow, Berkeley Law, recipient of the Oscar Lewis Award for Western History
“This is a land acknowledgement” Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Abolition Geography: Essays towards Liberation
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About the Author

Tony Platt

Tony Platt

Tony Platt is the author of thirteen books and 150 essays and articles on race, inequality, and social justice in American history, among them Beyond These Walls: Rethinking Crime and Punishment in the United States; Bloodlines: Recovering Hitler’s Nuremberg Laws, from Patton’s Trophy to Public Memorial; and The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency. His work has been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. In addition to scholarly books and publications, Platt has written for the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Truthdig, History News Network, Z Magazine, Nation, Salon, Monthly Review, and the Guardian, and his commentaries have aired on National Public Radio.

Now a Distinguished Affiliated Scholar at Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Law and Society, Platt taught at the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, and California State University where he received awards for teaching and scholarship. He blogs on history and memory at He lives in Berkeley and Big Lagoon, California. Photo credit: Janis Lwein.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the page above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


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