Amid growing complaints about university property named after slaveholding historical figures or racists, Yale announced yesterday that it has formed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming.
Yale’s president the committee will consult with experts, other universities and the community to establish “principles that are enduring rather than specific to particular controversies,” which will then be used to determine whether or not to rename a structure or public space at Yale.
The most controversial name of all is that of Calhoun College, a residential hall named after the notorious U.S. vice president and slave-owner John C. Calhoun. Last semester, after lengthy discussion, Yale announced it would not rename the college, saying that such a move “obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it.”
But in July, a black Yale dishwasher used a broomstick to break a Calhoun College stain-glass window depicting slaves picking cotton, prompting national media attention. His resignation, the outcry over it, and his subsequent rehiring at Yale renewed the debate. Yesterday, the University signaled that it would now reconsider whether Calhoun College was an appropriate name.
In an email to campus Monday announcing the creation of the committee, Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, wrote, “After these principles have been articulated and disseminated, we will be able to hold any requests for the removal of a historical name—including that of John C. Calhoun—up to them.”
Yale has already taken other steps to change racially charged names. At the same time as it announced it was keeping the Calhoun name, it also said it was changing the longstanding title of its residential college “masters” to “head of college” to strip the title of connotations to slavery.
Yale also announced it would name one of its two new residential colleges currently under construction after a black lesbian named Pauli Murray.
A spokesperson for Yale, as well as the new committee’s adviser, could not be immediately reached for comment.
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.