Charges will likely be dropped against the former Yale dishwasher who shattered a stained-glass windowpane in Calhoun College depicting slaves picking cotton.
Corey Menafee, who resigned last month after working for Yale for nearly a decade, appeared in state superior court Tuesday, with New Haven residents and Yale community members rallying around him. His case was continued to July 26, but University President Peter Salovey said Tuesday that the State Attorney’s Office “indicated a willingness” to abide by Yale’s request and drop the charges. The charges — a class-B misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and a class-D felony charge of criminal mischief — were filed by the Yale University police department in the aftermath of the incident.
“There is no doubt his situation was regrettable for all concerned,” Salovey said. “Yale worked with him and the union to resolve this issue compassionately.”
The prosecutor in the case was not informed of Yale’s request until after Tuesday’s hearing, according to the New York Times. All charges will likely be dismissed at Menafee’s next hearing on July 26, supervisory assistant state’s attorney David Strollo told the Times.
Patricia Kane, Menafee’s lawyer, said, she also expects the state attorney’s office to honor Yale’s request. If the charges are not dropped, Menafee plans to plead not guilty to both, Kane said.
Menafee, who is African-American, knocked the panel out with a broomstick on June 13. He told the New Haven Independent he no longer wanted to see the image, calling it racist and “very degrading.”
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy said the windowpane fell into the street and shattered, endangering a passerby at the scene. Menafee apologized for his actions and resigned, Conroy said.
Yale has denied that Menafee resigned in exchange for Yale declining to press charges. Menafee is currently in the process of obtaining a copy of his resignation agreement, Kane said.
Dozens of demonstrators gathered at Menafee’s court appearance Tuesday morning, wielding signs, some of which read: “Yale, stop insulting New Haven community! Change Calhoun name!”; “Corey Menafee New Haven Hero;” and “Yale: Respect black people,” according to the Independent.
Menafee’s dismissal fits into a broader campus debate surrounding Calhoun College, named after slave owner and white supremacist John C. Calhoun, class of 1804. Following months of debate and significant student rallies, University President Peter Salovey announced in April that the college’s name would not change. Calhoun College Head Julia Adams announced on July 5 that the college would remove several planes of glass depicting Calhoun from its common room and rename its dining hall to honor Roosevelt Thompson ’84.
As the Menafee incident gains attention, communities across New Haven and Yale continue to advocate that charges be dropped and he be reinstated. Hundreds of students have called for Menafee’s reinstatement in a recent open letter to Salovey.
“We write in outrage following the forced resignation and arrest of Corey Menafee,” reads the open letter, which more than 425 people — mostly students and alumni — had signed as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. “We call on you to publicly announce that Yale will not cooperate with the prosecution of Mr. Menafee, make every possible effort to secure the complete dismissal of all charges against Mr. Menafee, and reinstate Mr. Menafee in his former position at Yale.”
A Change.org petition by the New Haven Narrative Project asking the New Haven Police Department and the court to dismiss Menafee’s charges has gained more than 2,700 signatures as well. A slew of community organizations, including the New Haven Family Alliance, the Center for Community Change and Unidad Latina en Accion, have also released statements in Menafee’s support.
Over 350 students have liked an Overheard at Yale post stating that the University should rehire Menafee. But O’Connor said the University’s hands are tied.
“We see this entire incident as regrettable, and we have worked to deal with the situation as compassionately as possible,” O’Connor said. “But we feel we had no choice but to accept his resignation. There are unfortunately safety issues involved here. Glass fell onto a public sidewalk onto someone, endangering their safety.”
Salovey said that while people may find historical images on campus upsetting, “no one condones destroying property or putting people at risk.” The Committee on Art in Public Places is in the midst of assessing representations on campus, including the recent recommendation to move windows depicting Calhoun to the Yale University Art Gallery.
O’Connor said the University has spent the past year working to engage in a constructive conversation on Yale’s history and inclusivity. But Kane suggested that those conversations have not been navigated successfully.
“Sensitivity to racism and taking action seem to be something Yale continues to struggle with,” Kane said. “My client liked his job and his colleagues and wants his job back. He just wants to work in an environment that leaves him free to focus on his work instead of being exposed to distressing images.”
Yale is not seeking restitution for the broken window.