Yale waffles on retaining Calhoun College name

Yale University has established a committee of full-time faculty and staff to compose a set of principles that will guide future efforts to remove offensive names from buildings.

The committee, known as “The Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming,” was convened by Yale President Peter Salovey, who said he has some regrets about his recent decision to uphold the name of Calhoun College.

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“In recent months, many faculty, students, alumni, and staff have raised significant and moving concerns about that decision, and it is now clear to me that the community-wide conversation about these issues could have drawn more effectively on campus expertise,” Salovey announced Monday on the school’s website. “In particular, we would have benefited from a set of well-articulated principles according to which historical names might be removed or changed.”

Accordingly, he has now established a committee that won’t necessarily determine whether or not buildings should be renamed, but will draft a set of principles for all future discussions about renaming.

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Indeed, the committee describes its task as one of articulating “a set of principles that can guide Yale in decisions about whether to remove a historical name from a building or other prominent structure on campus.”

Salovey hinted that his controversial decision to keep Calhoun’s name on campus could be reconsidered, saying “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.”

What’s more, one of Salovey’s colleagues who chairs one of Yale’s faculty senates explicitly noted that the establishment of the committee could lead to the removal of Calhoun’s name.

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“I welcome the announcement of this committee: Our community is in urgent need of a common intellectual framework for addressing debates about renaming and historical memory on campus,” Professor Emily Greenwood said. “As chair of the FAS Senate, I note that the senate has urged that Yale’s decision to retain the name of Calhoun College be revisited as soon as possible.”

Additionally, Salovey explained that as part of the initiative, certain windows in some of the residential colleges will be relocated or removed entirely, such as a set of stained-glass windows depicting antebellum scenes, one of which was recently destroyed by a Yale employee before being removed.

Salovey has also launched a separate initiative to develop a website and an app that will allow students to explore the history of Yale’s namesakes, particular those of its residential colleges.

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