Anti-Calhoun protests target incoming Yale freshmen
A group of Yale University students have been conducting weekly protests and disrupting move-in efforts, hoping to convince the administration to change the name of Calhoun College.
According to The Yale Daily News, roughly 20 members of the student social justice organization Unidad Latina en Acción were among those attempting to use Freshman move-in day last Friday as a forum for their causes, marching into an intersection during red lights with a banner reading “CHANGE THE NAME.”
Every Friday for the last several weeks, the same group of students has been protesting the name of Calhoun College. Last week they wrote the name “Hitler” on tape and covered it over the name “Calhoun.” This week, they wrote the name “Osama Bin Laden” on tape and covered it over “Calhoun.”
An organizer for the protest group declared that the provocative taping tactic was intended to show the incoming freshman how offensive the name “Calhoun” is, and how it is affecting them.
“So now you know how people of color feel,” the student activist shouted through a megaphone. “We will keep on doing it until you get the point, Yale.”
The protesters also shouted slogans such as “change the name” and “gained your riches from African slaves” over a megaphone, and announced their intention to repeat the performance this upcoming Friday.
The move-in day demonstration was just one facet of the anti-Calhoun outreach to incoming freshmen, though.
The Daily News reports that this year’s Calhoun College freshman T-shirts also address the controversy by omitting the politician’s name, instead featuring the message “_____ College” set against a white background.
The T-shirt design, which was suggested by several Calhoun students and approved by administrators, was inspired by an email sent in the spring by Head of Calhoun College Julia Adams, who asked students to weigh in on the naming controversy after university president Peter Salovey decided that Calhoun would retain its name.
Salovey subsequently backtracked, however, announcing in August that he had convened a task force to evaluate the matter and devise general principles to guide future discussions about renaming.
Shortly before that revelation, a cafeteria worker at Calhoun College took it upon himself to express displeasure with the school’s historical context, smashing a stained glass window in the dining hall that depicted slavery because “it’s 2016; I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”
Yale declined to press charges, and even agreed to rehire the employee after he “expressed deep remorse about his actions.”
Isaiah Genece, head freshman counselor (FroCo) at Calhoun, said that he and the other FroCo members discussed the controversy that has taken place over the last few months, and decided that they had a responsibility to help manage the transition to a different name, even though the issue has yet to be decided.
“As we begin to move away from the name of Calhoun, any support is important,” he asserted. “As our shirts and memorabilia show, we are moving away from the name.”
Genece denied that the anti-Calhoun efforts amounted to indoctrination of the incoming students, however, saying, “Our job is not to indoctrinate them, but to let them form their own opinions and traditions.”