In April, Yale University faced intense backlash after it announced that Calhoun College, one of 12 residential colleges, would retain its name despite calls for change. The college was named for John C. Calhoun, a 19th-century alumnus and a fervent supporter of slavery.
Students threw fake $1 million bills at Yale President Peter Salovey during a town-hall meeting earlier this year, insinuating that he was a “sellout,” and more than 400 faculty members signed a letter expressing their dissatisfaction with the decision.
Salovey spoke to The News about the decision to form the committee:
“Renaming decisions will not be made in a vacuum, but the decisions are mine. Once these principles are formulated, we can hold any request for the removal of a historical name up against those principles. I expect that a request will come in for John C. Calhoun. And then any outcome is possible.”
The decision to retain Calhoun’s name last spring was made by the Yale Corporation. With the formation of the naming committee, it appears that Salovey is transferring some of the authority of renaming decisions away from the Yale Corporation, the Yale Daily News reported.
That decision seems to be, at least in part, a result of the massive pushback from students and faculty.
“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 wrote in a campus-wide email on Monday.
A professor who spoke anonymously to the News also pointed to the backlash stemming from the decision to retain the name of Calhoun College.
“The president’s office is under a lot of pressure as the negative reactions continue,” the professor said.
While condemnation over Calhoun’s name was fierce on campus, some prominent race-relations experts have said they don’t think Yale erred in its decision to keep the name of Calhoun College.
Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy, who has written five books about race in American, told Business Insider he didn’t think Yale made a mistake.
“People speak as if you keep John C. Calhoun’s name, that means you’re indifferent to the legacy of racism,” he said in May. “I don’t believe that. I think that there are people who embrace the idea of keeping his name who are deeply concerned with the legacy of slavery and racism and want to do things to address that legacy.”
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