The University will retain the name of Calhoun College but replace the title of residential college master with “head of college.”
A high-ranking administrator with knowledge of the naming decisions informed the News of them on Wednesday after learning them earlier this week.
The University has yet to publicly announce the fate of Calhoun College and the title “master,” though the circle of knowledgeable individuals is expanding. University President Peter Salovey met with Provost Benjamin Polak, professional school deans and vice presidents Wednesday morning, though the News was unable to confirm whether naming issues were discussed at the meeting. Salovey told the News earlier this month that he will formally announce these decisions, as well as the names of the two new residential colleges, before final exams begin on May 6. The anonymous administrator said the announcements will be released tomorrow evening.
Salovey declined to comment on the decision to maintain Calhoun and eliminate “master.
The debate over whether to rename Calhoun College has spanned decades. The college honors John C. Calhoun, one of slavery’s most fervent advocates. A former vice president and senator who graduated from Yale College in 1804, Calhoun was born and raised in South Carolina and is notorious for defending slavery as a “positive good” during a time when other southern politicians viewed it as a necessary evil.
These two naming decisions stand in opposition to the desires of most undergraduate students but in line with their expectations, according to a survey conducted by the News this past weekend. Fifty-five percent of roughly 1,700 respondents said Calhoun should be eliminated, though just 39 percent expected the University to take such action.
Those who advocated for maintaining Calhoun often said removing his name equated to whitewashing history and setting a “dangerous precedent.” However, others said rather than honor Calhoun with the namesake of a college, the University would be better served establishing an exhibit on his legacy or moving on entirely.
“John C. Calhoun was of the strongest advocates of his time for slavery and disloyalty to the Union, and there is no reason that Yale should honor him,” one respondent wrote.
For master, 45 percent of respondents said the title should be eliminated. Yet 70 percent said they expected the University to alter the form of address.
In explaining their views, students opposed to master noted that Yale has lagged behind Harvard and Princeton — both of which have already decided to eliminate the title — and that changing “master” is an easy way to appease students. Still, proponents of the title disputed its negative implications.
“I do not believe the title of Master should be eliminated, as it predates any connotations it may have later acquired,” one respondent wrote.
Campus debate about Calhoun and master gained momentum around the start of the academic year.
At his annual freshman address in August, Salovey launched an “open conversation” on the legacy of Calhoun, against the backdrop of a racially motivated shooting in Charleston, South Carolina that catalyzed national conversations about Confederate symbols and figures. At the time, Salovey challenged all members of the Yale community to confront questions about history and namings.
“Alumni and faculty have written to me and to Dean Holloway from varying perspectives, some at length and with considerable force,” Salovey said at the time.
Momentum against master has come both from within Yale and without. Following the emergence of campus protests centered on racism and discrimination nationwide, Harvard and Princeton both eliminated the title.
At Yale, Pierson College head Stephen Davis asked in August that students no longer call him by the title, citing its negative implications. The Council of Masters has since recommended the Yale Corporation alter the title.
“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,’” Davis wrote to the Pierson community. “And there should be no context where male-gendered titles should be normalized as markers of authority.”
Calhoun College originally opened in 1933.