Undergraduate Organizing Committee chalked colleges

The Undergraduate Organizing Committee has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the campaign of chalk and fliers that proposes new names for Yale buildings the group says are named after supporters of slavery.

Last Sunday, under the cover of darkness, six to eight members of the social activist group set out to post new names for eight of Yale’s residential colleges and three other buildings. It took three or four hours. The students hoisted each other up to paste their posters over the official University signs. For Jonathan Edwards College, for example, they said Yale should instead recognize Edwards’ slave, Titus X. In large letters on Cross Campus, they chalked their mysterious slogan: “Emancipate Yale.”

No caption.
Eva Galvan
No caption.

“[Our goal] is to raise historical awareness about our campus and who our University chooses to honor,” UOC members said in an e-mail to the News on Tuesday night.

Allen Sanchez ’10, a member of the organization, said that the UOC is not necessarily looking to rename the colleges, though he said he hopes it will bring awareness to the issue.

“We can’t let slavery go unnoticed,” Sanchez said.

Members of the group said they hoped campus would be more likely to react if they remained anonymous rather than couching the actions as an organization’s “agenda item,” Sanchez said. And they wanted to gauge reactions before going public, he added.

Indeed, when UOC member Hans Schoenburg ’10 was first approached to confirm his role in the campaign, he denied involvement. Later, Schoenburg said that because it was a group effort, he did not feel comfortable speaking on the group’s behalf.

In an interview Wednesday night, Yale College Dean Mary Miller said that while the issues raised by the UOC’s efforts are worth discussing, building names at Yale are part of the University’s history.

“The most meaningful way to think about this in the Yale context is that names are like a series of strata, in which we add names and build names layer by layer,” Miller said. “We do that across the University.”

During the 2008-’09 school year, the UOC organized several protests. In November, about 20 UOC members staged a sit-in at the Yale Investments Office to protest investments they considered ethically irresponsible. In February, the group organized a write-in campaign against HEI Hotels & Resorts, a company they accused of mistreating employees and in which they said Yale invests.

Sanchez said the idea for the latest campaign, “Emancipate Yale,” grew out of a UOC meeting at the end of September. The UOC conceived the idea for the movement after coming across “The Yale Slavery and Abolition Report” on yaleslavery.org, a work authored by three Yale graduate students in 2001, Schoenburg said.

Antony Dugdale GRD ’01, along with colleagues J.J. Feuser GRD ’02 and J. Celso de Castro Alves GRD ’06, published the Web site after Yale’s tercentennial celebrations failed to mention the darker side of Yale’s history, Dugdale said.

“Yale tried [to publicize] the sweet version by focusing on its abolition efforts,” Dugdale said Wednesday, but he noted that this version of history ignored University-affiliated people and institutions that had connections with slavery.

Dugdale, Feuser and de Castro Alves worked for three to four months in the archives of Sterling Memorial Library before they published their work on the Internet. The Web site elicited widespread discussion of renaming the colleges on campus; Dwight Hall held debates to discuss the morality of its namesake Timothy Dwight, who actively recruited pro-slavery students from the American South during his tenure as University President, Dugdale said.

Dugdale said he hopes the people who name Yale’s two new colleges will take into consideration that Yale has historically named its buildings after pro-slavery supporters, most prominently Senator John C. Calhoun 1804, who was a strong slavery advocate in the pre-Civil War years. Dugdale expressed approval of the UOC’s revival of the ideas in his report.

Comments

  • ’10

    Sigh…when will these kids shut up and go away.

  • robert99

    Yawn

  • Stamp Out Evil!

    All institutions (schools, governments, corporations) that have in any way benefitted from slavery, general subjugation of others, and military and economic oppression must be immediately dismantled. Also, if you’ve ever told a lie to another person, you should confess it immediately and yield all your possessions to someone who has always told the truth.

  • Rob69

    It seems there are more morons on campus than one would expect at a school with Yale’s standards…

  • GrokThis

    In my PoliSci classes some of the best discussions were topics like these. Hopefully the faculty will take advantage of this kind of thing. It is not often young people take it upon themselves to discuss the ethical issues behind slavery seriously even if going about it naively in the first place.

    That said, it would be a tragedy to rename these buildings. First it smacks of revisionist history as Mary Miller points out. Second it would deny these interesting discussions to the next generation of Yale students. For college students the fight to grow up is more important than doing all the right things and getting everything done.

    After college there isn’t much that gets “done”, just more work(or play depending on your disposition). This happens to be a good thing in my opinion.

  • ’09

    Wow, UOC. During my time at Yale, you staged a pointless sit-in at the Yale Investment Office and interfered with professionals trying to do their best for Yale during a rough time. Now you are vandalizing residential colleges for no reason other than that they lived in their own era! Should Thomas Jefferson not be recognized for all he did for his country? Should the names of all leaders who failed to advocate equal rights for women as well (that would be just about all dating from several thousand BC to 1900 AD) not be used on buildings or parks?

    It’s my understanding that social activist groups generally try to right the social wrongs of today by taking meaningful action and making people aware of issues. Instead of defacing your university’s property, how about doing something productive? Like raising awareness about gay couples not having equal rights (and getting discriminated against in taxes as a result)? Or raising awareness about the meat industry’s borderline criminal contamination of beef and the USDA’s impotence? Why not start living in the 21st century instead of the 19th? Perhaps address sex slavery in Eastern Europe today instead of slavery from 150 years ago? Basically, do something useful.

  • le_aviateur021

    Thankfully it wasn’t spray paint…..

  • Yale 08

    Any other year I’d believe this — this time around I suspect UOC is bluffing because the group’s member ranks have become so marginalized that there is little chance it could have done all this in one night.

  • $$ > immorality?

    This article fails to point out that the colleges were named during the 1930s and 1960s, well after slavery was considered acceptable. Knowing these men’s past, why did Yale choose to honor them? Were there no other noteable Yale graduates at the time who did not hold slaves?

    I wonder how $$ played into the naming of the colleges.

    It seems like at Yale, enough money can absolve you of your sins and even make it crime to point out a large donor’s moral wrongdoings.

  • Ronald Perelman wannabe

    I’m sure there’s a rich alum at Yale, like I was at Penn, who would willingly donate millions to have a building renamed for his gossip-columnist late wife. Two birds killed with one stone!

  • ROFLCOPTER

    Ah, I see. They come forward to admit their involvement after they are assured publicly that there will be no consequences for their action.

    How very brave.

  • boring

    self-righteous indignation…yawn.

  • @$$ (and UOC)

    Or, just maybe, the contributions of these namesakes to Yale and higher education still deserve recognition in spite of their personal opinions on something now recognized as abhorrent.

    What part of this don’t you understand? In naming colleges after people who were pro-slavery, Yale was not endorsing slavery. It was endorsing the genius behind an alum who invented morse code and the single-wire telegraph system, to take one example. Samuel Morse was born in 1791. Does it make his pro-slavery views right? No. But context matters. It’s very different than if he held those views today. Hindsight is 20/20, but apparently it makes Luke Studebaker feel like a good person to sneer at those antiquated losers who had slaves back before the Civil War.

    Find a single accomplished historical figure who didn’t hold a now-objectionable opinion on something and maybe we’ll have a discussion. And it really doesn’t help UOC’s case when they rename a college after a black nationalist terrorist, because torturing your underlings with boiling water before shooting them wasn’t a cultural norm in 1970, nor will it ever be. Sorry Bobby.

  • MAX

    This is seriously the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Yeah, let’s judge people who lived 400 years ago by today’s moral standards! YAY!

  • disgusted

    Acorn=UOC

  • In the structuralist tradition…

    Structures around us create realities that we perceive as natural or inevitable. Names, buildings all carry with them a history that adds to the reality of our day to day experience. Even if, as is obvious, these people contributed something to society, that is irrelevant to the fact that Yale students live in colleges whose nominations produce a specific knowledge set, reproducing what we see as natural, inevitable, or acceptable. Yale students live in these places! Whose names SIGNIFY an acceptance of an evil ideology. It is a symbols game, and by causing us to question, the UOC enhances Yale’s character in questioning what otherwise seems as acceptable. THANK YOU UOC for keeping the dialogue running…

  • Argle Bargle

    Wow, how smart of these people to figure out Yale’s secret agenda to restore slavery to our republic.

    Yale is evil, evil, evil!

    EVIL!

  • ’10

    I’m so happy it’s raining, “Emancipate Yale” and the rest of their ridiculousness is being erased. I actually agree with the UOC that Calhoun doesn’t deserve a college named after him, but this stupid stunt has kind of put me off their cause.

  • dk

    Maybe UOC could protest the awarding of Nobel Peace Prizes to terrorists like Arafat and Mandela.

  • @#13

    Thank you number 13 for pointing out the slavery endorsement in using Morse’s telegraph! All messages sent along wires in binary codings must be just as suspect! No more USB for UOC!

  • ’11

    I’m kind of surprised by how reactive so many of y’all were. (Yep, I’m talking to you, angry comment-board-folks.) I mean, it was CHALK. AND PAPER. I don’t know if you’re aware of this because some of you seem to be alums from a while ago, but people chalk on Yale’s campus all the time. It is not exactly ‘defacing property.’ Is your personal reality so threatened by people trying to raise awareness and provoke discussion that the best you can do is call them ‘stupid’? It seems fitting that on Columbus Day we should think about the importance of names and the values behind names.

  • Wait, were people not people before the civil war?

    What’s all this silliness about slavery not being morally reprehensible just because it happened a long time ago? I thought you conservatives were proponents of universal morality stemming from our traditional values! Or does that only apply to white people?
    -Alex

  • Alum

    It strikes me that the notorious Wesleyan “chalking” tradition is beginning to infect Yale. Are these chalkers people who would have gone to Wes ordinarily but who now apply to Yale early (because the early admissions standards are relatively low) in order to slurp up the enhanced financial aid?

  • @#22

    But, dear #22, slavery IS reprehensible. So why not go fight it–it still happens you know.

    Only, of course, now it happens in such politically inconvenient countries as Ghana and the Sudan (wouldn’t wanna, you know, crit the natives, huh?), Saudi and Kuwait (but.. but.. but… they’re our Musselman FRIENDS!)

    Oi veh.

  • 0y8

    I couldn’t care less about property defacing and wanting to start the debate is a good thing… but, really? Bobby Seale? How about you pick someone who did something probably WAY worse than anyone the colleges are actually named after? You make yourselves look like jokes, UOC.

  • Wesleyan

    to #23 Chalking has been going on, well, forever. Definitely since the 80s (what, you thought “Indigenous Peeps Day” was NEW????). Such a yawn. Like Jews in Jesus’ time, it makes the doer feel good w/o really *doing* anything. Makes a statement, nothing of import. They have it all backward.

    But to your point: I am always amused at how the topic du jour just SWEEPS campuses (even BEFORE twitter). Like “heteronormative.” I’d never heard the term then, all of a sudden, it was EVERYWHERE (and supposedly a BAD thing). What-evah.

    These lil campus radikools will fly away, do a few years in some non-prof, then get preggers and settle down to some REAL job (middle mgmt or something–the wives may continue, supported, as local activists, or mothers).

    What a bore.

  • @#21

    Several buildings on High Street (especially under the clock near Chapel Street) still carry chalk graffiti that was put on them last April. Ugly and tacky and definitely a defacement of Yale property.

  • Old Blue ’73

    I don’t object to the style of the protest, chalking and paper signs are OK. The purpose was stupid.

    My favorite graffiti of all time was chalked on the plaza side of Woolsey Hall in the 70’s: “Dare to struggle. Dare to win. DB Cooper”

  • @#27

    Good point. If they really cared then, mission accomplished, like Thing One and Thing Two they would then clean up after themselves.