A Yale dishwasher was arrested by New Haven police on June 13 and lost his job after he smashed a stained-glass windowpane in Calhoun College that depicted slaves picking cotton.

Menafee

Corey Menafee, who is African-American, told the New Haven Independent he knocked the panel out with a broomstick because he no longer wanted to see the “racist, very degrading” image. Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the windowpane fell into the street and shattered, endangering a person passing by.

The broken window follows a year of debate over the name of Calhoun College — named after Yale College alum and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun — with hundreds of students and faculty demanding the name be changed on the grounds that it is racially insensitive. In April, University President Peter Salovey announced that the college would keep its name.

Images of Calhoun around the college and scenes of slavery like those in the stained-glass window have become focal points in a debate over slavery’s legacy at Yale, and the college is set to remove several planes of glass depicting Calhoun before the fall semester starts. But Menafee said his decision to break the window had nothing to do with student protests.

“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” he told the New Haven Independent. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

Menafee was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and first-degree criminal mischief, a felony. He was released from police custody and is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

In Connecticut, property damage in excess of $1,500 can warrant a first-degree criminal mischief charge. If convicted of the charge, Menafee could face one to five years in prison and fines up to $5,000.

Second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to two years in prison and fines up to $1,000.

The University is not seeking restitution for the damaged pane, which was replaced with clear glass, Yale is not advocating that Menafee be prosecuted, Conroy said.

clear pane Calhoun

 

Menafee apologized for his actions and resigned from the University, Conroy said.

Calhoun Head of College Julia Adams, who announced the removal of other window panes last week, said in an email to the college last week that “the damage to one of the windows” in the dining hall had spurred a review by Yale’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces.

Menafee told the Independent that he was not aware of the prominence of the slave owner’s legacy in the college art and architecture. He has not filed a plea yet.

“It could be termed as civil disobedience,” Menafee said. “But there’s always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things. It wasn’t my property, and I had no right to do it.”

Still, Yale students opposed to Calhoun’s namesake were quick to express support for Menafee. Hours after the Independent first reported the story, Yale students took to social media, with some expressing anger over the charges and celebrating the action, while others argued that the destruction of Yale property was not an appropriate way to express frustration.

A demonstration is planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday on the steps of the New Haven Courthouse.

“When you see something so public and so in front of your face, and the University doesn’t want to change the name of the college, people do things,” said John Lugo, the leader of the New Haven social justice group Unidad Latina en Accion, which held a protest in front of Calhoun College earlier this spring.

Lugo said he views Menafee’s action not so much as a criminal act, but as a statement of resistance against racism at Yale.

“I would do the same thing,” Lugo said.

Menafee holds a degree in mass communications from Virginia Union University and has two children.

  • charliewalls

    Years ago feminism employed the concept of ‘consciousness-raising’. It seemed an excellent idea. It is clearly part of the Calhoun saga now even if unfelt by the Yale Corp. Or possibly felt well enough but challenged, which I hope is not a determining part of Yale these days.

  • annette

    Boo not Boola

  • Past editor

    Isn’t this a misleading headline if he resigned, wasn’t fired? Sure he could have been pressured but still seems hyperbolic.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Corey Menafee removed obstructions to Social Justice: Menafee is – by definition – a noble vanguard loosening the shackles of an oppressed proletariat. True, False, Discuss 🙂

  • Joseph W MacCarthy

    I bet if a pro-lifer knocked out a window of Margaret Sanger he’d be prosecuted.

  • matt10023

    The images were not an endorsement of slavery even if they depicted slaves in a field. Ironically, those who support the destruction also complain about white America trying to forget about slavery and sweep its harm under the rug. The window was a reminder of past slavery…. but no longer. It’s gone forever.

    Here we have a man applying his own interpretation to justify destroying a work of art. That’s what the Taliban did with the Buddas in Bamiyan valley in their desire to wipe out idolatry. But hey…. they were operating from a position of moral righteousness, so no harm?

    Amazingly, Yale has decided that the only problem with the destruction was the safety risk of falling glass. Now they are discussing moving other potentially offensive object out of public view. But where is anything safe? A museum is public – so would any image deemed unpopular deserve destruction without response? How about books in a library?

    Are these administrators the right stewards for the university?

  • TAYLOR

    It took a dishwasher, not a student, professor or administrator, to take action against the overt racist and derogatory imagery on display at Yale University. He ends up arrested and out of a job while the University, belatedly, removes the offensive items. It seems to me the academicians have an opportunity to learn something from their dishwasher.

  • forbes mag

    Negroes are so stupid and impulsive. All the window showed was negroes working in a cotton field. Nothing indicates they were SLAVES. Negroes worked in cotton fields after 1865 when slavery was abolished. Many were sharecroppers and some owned their own farms. But logic is not the strong suit of the low-IQ negroid.

  • OnePCWhiz

    So take a picture, post it and it will go viral.. Don’t break the window! Jeez.. no common sense.

  • Mongoose

    History is history. It’s not necessary to like or hate it. It is not all roses and sweet wine. Sometimes it is weeds, ashes and bitter lees. Learn from it, and don’t hide it away.

  • Danielle Wright

    You’ve gotta be kidding me. smashing a priceless window because you didn’t like the subject? What are we going to do next, rewrite history because we don’t like what happened? Yes, and let’s take down monuments and change name of parks and colleges just because I don’t like history. Get over it. He needs to be charged criminally and be made to replace the window, with the original depiction. It’s HISTORY. OUR HISTORY. It’s not something you can change. The only thing you can change is OUR FUTURE.

  • Akbar Jesus (Chip) Reymundo

    That degree is working out nicely.

  • marcedward

    Glad he was fired, hope he’s convicted, he looks like he has the brains of one peanut.
    Students who support this should show some backbone and leave Yale if they hate it so much – but they won’t, being hypocrites, weaklings and cowards.

  • whatever357mag

    its ok to commit vandalism if you’re offended enough, and if you’re a visible minority, because the criminal code does not apply to the emotional outbursts of special interest groups…

  • Jheela

    Good for him. The dining hall should be renamed the “Menafee Dining Hall”.

  • Spanky

    It’s inappropriate but not so much as slavery was.

  • joeblow55

    We should consider this a criminal act and give him the maximum jail sentence. And of course all the left wing fanatics get their say at yale. Like it or not, John C. Calhoun was a significant historical figure. Yale’s attempts to erase history is an affront to us all.

  • Doc1943

    So who is going to be the first to enter the nearest church or art gallery and destroy any images of Christ carrying a cross to his execution? Certainly at least as offensive
    an image .