Yale Removes Slave Proponent’s Name from Residence Hall - Higher Education
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Yale Removes Slave Proponent’s Name from Residence Hall

by Jamal Eric Watson

After a wave of student protests, Yale University announced over the weekend that it would remove the name of John C. Calhoun—a Yale alumnus—who was a proponent of slavery, from an undergraduate residence hall.

Yale’s president, Dr. Peter Salovey ignored the university’s Board of Trustees who voted in April to keep the White supremacist politician and slave owner’s name on the building.

Calhoun served the United States as Vice President to John Quincy Adams. He also served as Secretary of State, Secretary of War and a U.S. Senator.

“I made the decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” said Salovey in a phone interview with reporters.  “Judging Calhoun’s principles and legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good are at odds with the values of this university.”

Salovey said that the residence hall will now be named after Grace Murray Hopper, a Yale alumna and well-known computer scientist who went on to become one of the country’s first computer programmers. She later enlisted in the Navy. She died in 1992 and was awarded a posthumous Medal of Freedom by President Obama last November.

“As a national leader, Calhoun helped enshrine his racist views in American policy, transforming them into consequential actions,” said Salovey. “Yale has changed magnificently over the past 300 years and will continue to evolve long after our time; today we have the opportunity to move our university forward in a way that reinforces our mission and core values.”

Last year, Corey Menafee was arrested after he destroyed a stained glass window depicting slaves in a cotton field. He later resigned and apologized and the university opted not to press charges against Menafee.

Yale is the latest school to strip a White supremacist and slave holder’s name from a university building. In recent years, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Georgetown University have made similar changes.

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson

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