Jon Victor

Hundreds of activists and their allies gathered in front of Calhoun College Friday afternoon to protest the Corporation’s decision to retain the college’s name and rechristen it as “the college formerly known as Calhoun.”

Holding signs inscribed with potential replacement namesakes, such as Grace Hopper and Edward Bouchet, students dressed in black lined up in front of the college. A handful of activists spoke to the audience of roughly 600, lamenting that the University has honored a white supremacist for more than 80 years and explaining that the gathering marks the first step toward a new path. One speaker explained that Calhoun College will not be given a new name yet; rather, students will take a moment to reflect first. Others read spoken word poetry, sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice” and decried the “historical and ongoing injustices” enabled by Yale administrators.

“President Salovey, alumni, Yale Corporation: we are grateful people. We are not selfish. We are painfully self aware,” one speaker said. “But our allegiance belongs to those who love us … It does not belong to you.”

Dianne Lake ‘16, who sang at the rally, said students had expected the University to do better and that administrators made a mistake maintaining the name of Calhoun.

“This demonstration was about a rebirth and renaming,” Lake said.

Just prior to the rally, University President Peter Salovey told the News that he welcomes expressions of student opinion in its many forms.

Yale Professor David Blight, who specializes in Civil War history, said he was glad that the activists opted to “start a process” rather than rename the college at the demonstration.

History and American Studies professor Ned Blackhawk, who attended the event, said it signified students’ intellectual engagement with issues of racism and indigenous dispossession.

“It seems to me that our students have a global conscience about indigenous dispossession,” Blackhawk said, referencing the protest’s emphasis that Yale is built on stolen Quinnipiac land. “They have learned about these issues in their classrooms and are applying it to their everyday life.”

Toward the end of the gathering, a chant that included “Calhoun’s gotta go” emerged. New Haven Rising organizer Rev. Scott Marks, who initiated it, praised students for their efforts.

“I thought the demonstration was wonderful, and I give the students a lot of credit,” Marks said. “We trusted Yale that it would do the right thing. To remind us of the malt painful part of black history so that they could keep in history in place — it needs to go.”

Head of Calhoun College Julia Adams said she found the demonstration “impressive and beautiful,” especially praising the members of her college who participated.

While a number of other heads of colleges attended the event, they were less willing to share their thoughts given the protest’s connection to Calhoun College. Both Head of Pierson College Stephen Davis and Head of Timothy Dwight College Mary Lui declined to comment.

Salovey announced the decision to maintain the namesake of John C. Calhoun, class of 1804, on Wednesday.

  • Tim Steele

    “It seems to me that our students have a global conscience about indigenous dispossession,” Blackhawk said, referencing the protest’s emphasis that Yale is built on stolen Quinnipiac land.

    Pardon me for being confused here but how did we move from the name of Calhoun College to stealing land from the Quinnipiacs? Seems these are professional protestors looking for a cause and anything even remotely tangential will do just fine. Oh the injustice in all of this…

  • Malcolm Pearson

    I graduated Calhoun in 1979. Before ever learning of this protest, I sent a text this morning to our Class Secretary and told her I would refer in future to my college simply as TCFKAC. The College Formerly Known As Calhoun. Which, in view of the circumstances, is a fine name in its own right.

    • Nancy Morris

      Did you send a nice big check to Access Yale at the same time you sent your text?

  • Muhammad Ali Kamal

    They protested a Calhoun College for some people at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

  • Muhammad Ali Kamal

    They included a global conscience about Calhoun College from Yale University in New Haven, CT

  • doggy

    I wonder whether Mr Salovey would have failed to act if a college had been named after Mr Carl Schmitt.

    For those unfamiliar with his oeuvre , Mr Schmitt was a theoretician who wrote Der Führer schützt das Recht, in defence of the the Night of the Long Knives. He was also the distinguished author of The Nomos of the Earth, and other fascinating pieces of German jurisprudence of a certain political and philosophical hue.

    I rather suspect that the question above must be answered in the negative, even though the regrettable Mr Schmitt contributed far more to the life of the mind than the even more regrettable Mr Calhoun did.

    • yalie

      As academic questions go, that’s up there.

  • ShadrachSmith

    The self-appointed vanguards of an imaginary proletariat struggling to be free from the chains of a building being named Calhoun? Spare me 🙂

    • Emily

      You have it wrong. That’s V. I. Lenin. This protest movement is much more in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. The potential is to lift everyone up.

  • minnamuller

    I fear that the rather more petty issue of “Franklin” has distracted from the much more grounded one of Calhoun. President Salovey’s emphasis on the importance of not erasing history is well founded. But I can’t help but wondering if a prominent plaque explaining Calhoun’s history and the need to change the name wouldn’t do the trick.

    • jimc

      Calhoun’s economic model, coupled with his commitment to the Constitution in the form that then existed, are likely to be based on a desire to improve or maintain the Southern states of the nation. His views, even if imperfect, on the return of fair value to the worker deserve reading and modern commentary.

    • Nancy Morris

      All of the so-called naming issues are petty.

  • marcedward

    These students honor Calhoun by remaining at Yale.

  • Wes Wright

    Did they come up with a neat graphic symbol like the artist formerly known as Prince?

  • jimc

    2 interesting chapters (Calhoun and Lincoln) in noted Columbian historian Richard Hofstadter’s ‘American Political Tradition’ are worth reading, esp. those of Lincoln in his own [surprising] statements regarding race a decade after Calhoun. The historical record is not the one some might wish it to be, and the relevance of the posted minnamuller comment should be part of this discussion.

  • bwayjunction

    Just add A. J. in front of Calhoun. Problem solved.