In light of the University’s recent, controversial naming decisions — which many members of the Yale community argue were motivated by the preferences of wealthy donors — two Yale College alumni are asking their peers to donate to Yale organizations that promote diversity and inclusion rather than to the University generally.
Emma Janger ’15 and Emma Hills ’14 launched a petition Sunday evening after learning that Yale would establish Benjamin Franklin College and maintain the namesake of Calhoun College, John C. Calhoun — a former vice president and fierce slavery advocate who graduated from Yale College in 1804. Since then, 70 Yale alumni have signed the pledge, committing to direct any potential donations to organizations like the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Yale Women’s Center, La Casa, Dwight Hall and the Yale Gay and Lesbian Organization.
The apparent influence of Charles B. Johnson’s ’54 $250 million gift on the naming of Franklin College pushed Janger and Hills to establish the petition. In his announcement email to the Yale community, University President Peter Salovey noted that Franklin is a “personal role model” of Johnson, whose record-breaking donation was announced in September 2013.
“For us, giving money to Yale right now is unthinkable,” the petition reads. “As an institution, Yale placed the wishes of one donor above the lived experience of its student body. At the same time, we are blown away by the amazing students on campus organizing protests, creating discussion spaces, and pushing this conversation while in the midst of finals and the end of year.”
Hills told the News that she and Janger are asking alumni to focus donations on student-run organizations that advocate for inclusion and are at least somewhat financially independent of the University. These fall into three categories: cultural houses, other on-campus organizations and alumni organizations, such as the Yale Black Alumni Association.
Janger said that while she disagrees with the Yale Corporation’s naming decisions, alumni can still support students working to make campus a “better place.” The pledge enables alumni to enhance the voices and passions of those students, she added.
“There wasn’t really anything we could do as alumni besides not give money, but that didn’t feel like enough,” Hills said. “This is a way to take action so that we don’t feel like we’re on the sidelines. It comes from a place of love.”