From a clergyman to a politician to a professor, 10 individuals and two towns have had the honor of an eponymous Yale residential college.
In preparation for the construction of two new residential colleges, the University is working to determine who else should be added to that list.
On Wednesday morning, University President Peter Salovey sent an email to all members of the Yale community asking them to submit suggestions for the naming of the two colleges. With construction set to officially begin in Feb. 2015, the Yale Corporation hopes to announce the names within the coming year.
In response to the email, many students, alumni and faculty interviewed highlighted the importance of adding diversity to the existing roster.
“We need diversity,” Maria Burton ’85 said. “This is actually important because [the names] actually filter through culture in a very deep way.”
With the exception of Branford and Saybrook colleges, all of Yale’s existing residential colleges have been named for white males with a distinguished connection to the University.
Burton said that she strongly advocated for at least one of the colleges to be named after a woman. On Wednesday, she started a dialogue on the Facebook page of the nonprofit YaleWomen related to the namings. She was surprised to learn of notable female Yale graduates whose names she had never even heard.
Matt Czarnecki ’18 said that the names should be more representative of the makeup of the student body.
“I feel like one of the colleges should be named after a woman, because [most] residential colleges are named after men,” he said. “That’s not a comprehensive reflection of Yale College or the United States.”
History professor Jay Gitlin — who teaches the course “Yale in America” — said that the naming of the colleges is a way to measure what is important to the current Yale community, adding that he would like for the colleges to be named after someone with some historical resonance.
Gitlin suggested Grace Hopper GRD ’34 — a pioneer in American computer science and a United States Navy rear admiral — and Lucinda Foote as two potential female candidates. According to Gitlin, Yale’s first president, Ezra Stiles, recognized that Foote was just as qualified as Yale’s male students when she was just 12 years old but could not attend the school because she was female.
“To go back in time and honor this person who, for no fault of her own, has become somewhat anonymous, I think would make a statement,” Gitlin said.
In addition to lacking gender-based diversity, none of Yale’s colleges are named after individuals of racial minorities.
In particular, the name of Calhoun College has been a source of controversy because John C. Calhoun, a member of the class of 1804, was not only a secessionist during the Civil War but also an avid defender of slavery.
Rodney Cohen, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Afro-American Cultural Center, said that his first choice would be Edward A. Bouchet 1874 GRD 1876. Bouchet was long considered to have been the first African American to graduate from Yale College and is generally regarded as the first African American to receive a Ph.D.
Taylor McHugh ’16 said that times have changed since the first 12 colleges were named.
When the naming of soon-to-be Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges was negotiated in the 1960s, Henry “Sam” Chauncy ’57 was an associate dean of Yale College. Chauncy said that the names were chosen to reflect Yale College at the time.
“Yale, as you know, was all male and all white, so it shows the nature of how Yale was in those days,” Chauncy said.
After reading Salovey’s email, some students wondered whether their opinions would be taken into consideration.
Farheen Maqbool ’17 believes they will.
“I think if people feel strongly they should definitely email,” she said. “If there’s a strong enough push from students in a certain direction, then the survey could have an impact.”
Other students responded to Salovey’s email more negatively.
Amelia Nierenberg ’18 said that she was discouraged by the email because it seemed like the Corporation had full control over the decision-making process and the survey was only meant to make students feel more included.
The new colleges are expected to open in the fall of 2017.
Correction: Oct. 10
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled the name of Lucinda Foote.