We were deeply troubled by the news (“Dining hall worker loses job after smashing Calhoun windowpane, Jul. 11, 2016”) of Mr. Corey Menafee’s arrest and subsequent loss of his Yale dining hall job after he broke a stained glass window. The window depicted enslaved black people picking cotton. Mr. Menafee was understandably tired of having to work in an environment decorated with these idealized images of slavery—images that were, as Mr. Menafee said, “racist” and “very degrading.” Mr. Menafee is now facing criminal charges.

We understand that Yale values its property. However, the property in question invoked precisely the kind of racist imagery and legacy that the university is so publicly trying to work against. In fact, the Head of College’s decision to remove and store additional stained glass windows in the wake of Mr. Menafee’s action suggests that the Yale administration agrees with Mr. Menafee that it is time for this kind of offensive public art to be banished from campus. We do not believe that this necessary change should come at the expense of Mr. Menafee’s job and record.

Only last week, President Peter Salovey reminded us that “diversity and inclusion are core values at Yale.” And at a protest at the New Haven County Courthouse, Yale students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds testified to the ways Mr. Menafee put these values into practice during his time working in their college. We believe that offering Mr. Menafee his job back would be a significant and concrete way for the Yale administration to put these core values into practice as well. Because the truth is that asking black workers (staff and faculty) and black students to work and live alongside pastoral portrayals of slavery is an act of violent exclusion. We hope that administrators take this opportunity to show that Yale is ready for the hard work that achieving real diversity requires.

Briallen Hopper is a lecturer in the English department and Dixa Ramírez is an assistant professor in the American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, and Migration departments.

  • The Amoral Squirrel

    If shattering a window depicting slavery is an acceptable way to put “diversity and inclusion” into practice, history teachers may need to go into hiding.

  • Ralphiec88

    A professor at Yale should know better than to characterize employing someone in building with an 80 year old window as “act of violent
    exclusion.” There’s no violence here, and quite likely no intentional “act” either. Did Mr. Menafee raise this issue with his employer before breaking the window? Should employees be allowed to break anything on campus that displeases them? Or should they be expected to accomplish the same goals within legal means readily available to them. Given the hypervigilance toward racism on campus, the simple act of bringing the issue to the attention of Yale would surely have resulted in action. Instead, the local Taliban are back in full cry enforcing their version of moral purity. Where will it end? The windows must go, but so must Menafee.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Marx taught advancing Communism forgives all crimes/sins, so same-same social justice 🙂

  • carl

    No.

    Advocates of diversity at Yale do not aid their cause, but rather harm it, by asking for
    special treatment for people who illegally destroy University property.

    Actions have consequences, and vandalism is vandalism, especially when it endangers passers-by.

    Do not define violence down by calling the mere existence of a stained-glass window “violent exclusion.” That is the worst sort of word twisting. If you really try to twist the meaning of violence that way, I’m not going to believe anything you try to say.

    Everyone at a university ought to be able to agree that you don’t get rid of offensive works of art by breaking them. Or is it now open season on the YUAG? Can British expats now slash the Trumbull paintings because they insult the Crown?

  • Bob

    So if your black, intent is all that matters. If you’re white, intent is irrelevant. Got it. Critical race theory is as legitimate as Scientology. Lol.

  • marcedward

    the man is violent and cannot control himself. Yale is lucky he didn’t attack or rape a student.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    After I read this and vomited, I am able to say Yale is lost. There are many ways in which dissatisfaction can be expressed and, unless you are two years old, breaking a window is not one of them. When students no longer embrace moral codes of conduct, look no further than the conduct exhibited and condoned and excused by Yale staff and faculty. Shame on you.

    • Elliewho

      I am done with supporting Yale in any way. They paid lip service to Nicholas and Erika Christakis in the professors’ effort to support and uphold free speech, but they allowed an individual to destroy property that he found “offensive,” an act of censorship that even the ACLU should decry.