Colleges across the country are responding to a rising surge of student protests by stripping away names and symbols that appear to some as relics of racism and white supremacy. Yale College is one of several institutions that is facing a wave of ire, but there attempts to satisfy student demands have largely been an attempt at compromise.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the university did not concede to one of the protestors’ most prominent demands, to strip the name of John C. Calhoun from a residential college. Calhoun was an 1804 graduate of Yale College and a prominent intellectual forefather of the Confederacy. Along with being a pretty creepy looking guy he infamously defended slavery as a “positive good.”
In a Wednesday email, University President Peter Salovey announced that Calhoun’s name would not be removed, and that Yale will name two new residential colleges, opening in the fall of 2017, after Benjamin Franklin, the founding father and inventor, and Anna Pauline Murray, a civil rights activist and lawyer.
In his announcement on Wednesday, Salovey said that getting rid of Calhoun’s name would be against Yale’s mission. According to Salovey, erasing the name would be a move “that might allow us to feel complacent or, even, self-congratulatory.”
“Retaining the name forces us to learn anew and confront one of the most disturbing aspects of Yale’s and our nation’s past,” Salovey added. “I believe this is our obligation as an educational institution.”
While the university will not be removing Calhoun’s name from the residential college, it will be dropping the term “master,” which is the title of certain faculty members that head Yale’s residential communities. The title became a big issue on campus after Stephen Davis, a scholar of religious studies who heads Yale’s Pierson College, told the Pierson community in a 2015 email that he did not want any of them referring to him as “master.”
“I think there should be no context in our society or in our university in which an African-American student, professor, or staff member — or any person, for that matter — should be asked to call anyone ‘master,’” wrote Davis in the email.
Yale became one of several schools to ditch the title of “master,” changing it to “head of college.” Princeton decided to switch to the same title as Yale, and Harvard opted for “faculty dean.”
There are still many students who are upset that the Calhoun name has not been changed, and some view the new Franklin College as another step in the wrong direction. Dianne Lake, a senior, said that the college “moved one step forward,” by honoring Murray, but “two steps back,” by also honoring Franklin, who owned slaves for a time before freeing them.