Nearly a month after the University announced it would maintain the namesake of Calhoun College, hundreds of faculty members have vocalized their opposition to the decision.

While most undergraduates have left campus, some faculty members have continued to hold meetings and discussions about the naming of Calhoun College. On Tuesday, the FAS Senate voted 18-1 in favor of submitting a letter to University President Peter Salovey and the Yale Corporation, calling on them to reconsider their decision to retain the namesake of the college. The senate letter is not the only conduit through which faculty members have voiced their concerns about the decision — an open letter authored by Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Professor Andrew Miranker has garnered close to 400 faculty signatures. Faculty members interviewed said that while these efforts may have little direct influence on overturning the Corporation decision, they show that a significant number of faculty members — more than half of the FAS ladder faculty — are willing to voice their concerns.

“The letter by itself is not of value. There is no infrastructure that means you can overturn the decision of the president,” Miranker said. “But it is very empowering to people who either do not have a voice or whose voices are not taken seriously.” He added that the letter was concise and focused on the issue of Calhoun in order to rally as many faculty members as possible.

Salovey told the News that he has always weighed the perspective of the FAS heavily, both during the construction of the Calhoun decision and in its aftermath.

“I value and take seriously the input of the FAS faculty,” Salovey said. “I receive this input in many forms. In addition to the letter from the FAS Senate, their views expressed to us in emails, in person, at the listening sessions and through our online solicitation of opinion were certainly taken into account.”

The senate letter comes two weeks after Miranker sent the faculty open letter to Salovey and the Corporation. The senate letter critiques the decision to retain the name of Calhoun as well as the lack of communication with faculty during decisionmaking.

The letter called the lack of formal consultation with the FAS Senate “unfortunate” and wrote that such conversations might have resulted in a decision more reflective of campus sentiment. It also referenced a May 5 Yale College faculty meeting, in which Salovey discussed the Corporation decision with faculty members, and the faculty open letter, which gained momentum following the meeting.

“As the elected Senate of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, we write to express our disagreement with your recent decision to retain the name of Calhoun College. The decision as it stands does not represent the views of the Senate or the best values of our university,” the senate letter reads. “We strongly request that you reconsider this decision and find a new name for Calhoun College before the start of the fall semester.”
But Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor said, despite these petitions, the University remains committed to following through on retaining the name Calhoun College.

“We’ve made a decision,” she said. “We want to implement that decision and analyze how that implementation goes… We always knew that this decision would be controversial. There are many people who have been not perhaps as vocal but have privately supported it.”

The FAS-centric open letter has also garnered much attention and has 335 FAS professor signatories — roughly half of the FAS body. The letter was authored following the May 5 faculty meeting and pushed back against the Corporation’s line of argument in retaining the name of Calhoun College. In his official message to the Yale community, Salovey wrote that the decision was made in part for educational purposes. O’Connor emphasized that the president has prioritized “confronting the past.” However, the letter writes that the name of a college not only represents a university’s engagement with a historic legacy, but also conveys the university’s honoring of an individual. Furthermore, the letter writes that the University is doing students a “disservice” by forcing them to live unnecessarily under a “brand so deeply associated with slavery.”

“When the president and the corporation receive a letter from over 360 Yale College faculty urging them to rename Calhoun College, they should realize the deep faculty resolve on this issue,” History professor Glenda Gilmore said. “This is a needless and divisive issue that is demoralizing faculty and students and will continue to do so until they act.”

Professor Jay Gitlin ‘71 MUS ’74 GRD ’02 — dubbed by many the unofficial historian of Yale — said his colleagues in the FAS are trying to do the “right thing,” adding that he has heard mixed signals on what will happen next. Another phase of formal deliberations would not be surprising, he added, as the Calhoun debate does not seem close to over.

Beyond Yale, the decision to retain Calhoun College’s name has caught the attention of outside scholars. James Loewen, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Vermont, published an opinion piece “10 Questions for Yale’s President” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which outlined the arguments against keeping the name of Calhoun College. In particular, Loewen expelled the educational purposes of Calhoun College proposed by Salovey on multiple occasions.

“Yale and the president could make a much more credible claim that the college is ‘educational’ if they had ever used Calhoun to educate students before the Charleston shooting,” Loewen said to the News. “To use that claim now shows bad faith. When a dormitory says ‘Calhoun College,’ all that conveys is that Calhoun was a great man and that we should honor him.” Loewen also highlighted the period during which the college was named after Calhoun. He said that the college was established between 1931 and 1933, during the “nadir of race relations.”

The University announced its decision to retain the name of Calhoun College on April 27.

  • AnnMAltman

    Yale seems to have a double standard when it comes to minorities. For example, while it’s nice that a small number of transgender students and guests did not have to worry about which toilet to use at commencement (a widely publicized decision, accompanied by a press release), transgender individuals on campus are and will always be far outnumbered by students of color. The sensitivity to LGBTQ issues reflects the current liberal intellectual fashion but such sensitivity seems hypocritical in view of the blatant insensitivity to the concerns of students of color.
    According to the logic used to support the decision to retain the name Calhoun, campus bathrooms should remain single-sex to encourage discussion of gender issues and maintain Yale’s traditional separation, by chromosomal gender, of those who need to relieve themselves. And where’s the sense in that?

  • minnamuller

    Link to letter please?

  • ShadrachSmith


  • concerned

    I sincerely hope that the continued fallout from this unfortunate decision helps move concerned scholars on campus away from engaging in a power struggle and towards considered use of the courts to check this particular overextension of the Corporation. Solely from a morality perspective, I would also love to know more about those who currently support the Corporation “privately” as per Eileen O’Conner. Let’s have more attention to this “private” scholarship, why don’t we? Or, for example, pursue further investigation on how immoral decisions get made under the cover of “privacy”. (For example the 50 year embargo on Corporation proceedings).

  • Felix_C

    Poorly written article. What exactly did Calhoun do that has created the controversy? I a little background would have been nice.

    • bdavi52

      You expect reason & rationality?

      Calhoun existed. And he made the mistake of existing in an era which accepted (even embraced) slavery. The evil fool!

      Join us now and work to eradicate every mention, every picture, every portrait, every remaining smidgen (no matter how small or trivial) of anyone and everyone who ever owned slaves, knew someone who owned slaves, used the products or services produced by slaves, profited in any manner (no matter how indirect) from slave labor, or accepted in any way whatsoever the world which allowed slaveholding to occur.

      But wait. Jim Crow & Segregation — that was no better! Surely we are prepared to equally eradicate every mention, every picture, every portrait or remaining smidgen of anyone and everyone who participated in….accepted…or even existed in the world which alllowed such evil to exist.

      But who is left? What names are acceptable? Who is or was truly without sin? Will every building, every street, every scholarship only ever bear the name of Mother Teresa? (but don’t we question her opposition to abortion? don’t we question the conditions she maintained in the hospices she ran?)

      Perhaps it’s best if we just went with Numbers and Random Letter Generators? Dump Calhoun College and adopt 56#*(( College? Where do you live? I live on 89!@9 Street!

      What could be better? And just think of all the ‘strike a pose’ outrage we can avoid!!

  • Hubert_the_Infant

    The best thing about this is that the petition was authored by an MB&B professor. Perhaps now we will finally stop hearing that the intellectual rot at Yale and other U.S, universities is limited to the humanities and has not affected STEM disciplines.

  • Sejin Hwang

    As the FAS faculty actions show, and Eileen O’Connor in this piece suggests by noting that Yale will “analyze how that implementation goes,” this is far from over, even from the administration’s perspective. Surely it must have considered the end game here: Either students of color will be FORCED to reside in Calhoun against their will, or Calhoun will remain, like so many fraternities and sororities, a bastion (haven?) of white students who have little sensitivity to this kind of problem. Neither result is viable, not least because of the disastrous publicity that this would generate. So unless students of color or black students especially do the highly unexpected and agree to live there, the president’s hand will be forced. I’d like to think this was the deliberate path chosen to appease the rich alumni for the time being. Otherwise, it’s very sad to think that the president might have actually believed this issue was going away with his decision.

  • Malcolm Pearson

    I am a white southerner who graduated from Calhoun nearly 40 years ago. I feel in a visceral way that this decision to continue with “Calhoun” is not merely wrong, but that it must not stand, and that finally it will not stand. To have ever adopted it was shameful, and now to retain it after such interminable deliberation, is nearly inconceivable.
    But the students and faculty can take down the name, no matter the stodgy and out-of-touch views of the Corporation. Just stop using it. Boycott it. Treat it as nonexistent, and so it will become. For now, may I suggest a simple placeholder– College and Elm College, or CE for short. Let the morally conflicted administration and sentimental old Blues talk to themselves using the old name. The living company of scholars and students who are the heart of Yale have in their hands the power to change this name. Now use it.