Charges against the Yale dining hall worker who smashed a windowpane depicting slaves picking cotton in Calhoun College last month were dropped at a court hearing Tuesday morning.
Corey Menafee, the longtime Yale worker who resigned a week after he smashed the windowpane with a broomstick June 13, accepted the University’s reinstatement offer July 19 and returned to work Monday. The University had promised not to pursue the charges of felony and misdemeanor filed against him following the incident and offered him a “second chance at Yale” following a five-week unpaid suspension.
After the charges were dropped at Tuesday’s hearing at the state superior court, Menafee will not have any criminal record relating to the incident, according to his lawyer, Patricia Kane. Kane said when she first took over the case, she expected that Yale would drop the charges, but she was surprised at Menafee’s reinstatement.
“I’m feeling great,” Menafee told a cheering crowd as he walked out of the courthouse Tuesday morning.
Menafee spent his first day back on the job July 25 working in the Commons at Schwarzman Center dining hall, he told the News, but he does not know where he will permanently be posted. Menafee declined to comment further.
Yale Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor declined to comment on the dropped charges or Menafee’s new role at the University Tuesday morning.
At the courthouse, Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney David Strollo noted that a small shard of the glass from the window fell near a passerby. However, no one was injured in the incident.
The consequences of the shattered glass have ricocheted across Yale’s campus and the broader community, with Menafee making appearances on national news outlets such as National Public Radio and the progressive news program Democracy Now!. Following the news of Menafee’s resignation, Yale and New Haven community members rallied to raise over $25,000 for him and signed a petition calling for his reinstatement. While Menafee has said he regrets breaking the window, he has also publicly acknowledged that his action to remove “racist” imagery has been met with gratitude and support.
“To bring about some type of change — and obviously I’m not the only one who felt the need for that to picture to be removed — does feel good because I was able to do something that a lot of people wanted done,” Menafee told the News July 15.
The incident has only contributed to the hotbed of debate surrounding Calhoun College, named after fervent slavery advocate John C. Calhoun, class of 1804. After months of student rallies, University President Peter Salovey announced in April that the Calhoun name would remain.
Around 30 New Haven residents and Yale students protested on Elm Street outside of Calhoun on Tuesday morning, calling for Yale to rename the college before marching to the courthouse to witness Menafee’s ruling. As protesters alternated between chants of “Change the name” and “Calhoun has got to go,” one taped over a Calhoun College sign, covering the name “Calhoun.”
An activist wrote “DOUGLAS” on the tape, likely a reference to the proposal to name Calhoun after Frederick Douglass, an African-American and contemporary of Calhoun who criticized the other man for his stance on slavery.
“Corey Menafee is our Rosa Parks of 2016,” West Haven resident Barbara Fair said. Fair, like others at the protest, criticized Yale for for holding to “ugly history” by retaining Calhoun’s name.
John Lugo, an organizer for the New Haven-based immigrant and workers’ rights group Unidad Latina en Accion, said that on every Friday from now on, local residents will protest outside the college on the corner of College and Elm Streets, demanding that Yale change the name.
“Now residents will join,” Lugo said. “We will be more organized.”
Nataliya Braginsky, a teacher with New Haven Public Schools who was protesting Tuesday, said the Menafee case has linked Yale to New Haven because Menafee, who lives in the Hill neighborhood, is a local employee.
“It’s important to stand with the community against the injustice that my university is perpetuating,” Claire Shen ’19 said. “I think what he did was just in his own right. He seems like a rational, smart guy. He has a lot to say. I hope Yale also understands that.”
Yale Law School professor Tracey Meares also spoke at the protest. She told the News that changing the name would be a “small gesture” that “acknowledges the dignity of everybody.” Meares said she is pleased with the town-gown collaborations between local residents and student activists.
Activists in front of the courthouse were temporarily disrupted by one white male, who declared Menafee a “vandal” and said Yale’s decision to drop charges was “reverse discrimination.”
Kica Matos, resident from Fair Haven and Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice of Center for Community Change, said the activists were there Tuesday morning to “witness the final act of justice prevailing.”
“We demanded that the charges be dropped against Mr. Menafee and we demanded that Yale reinstated him back to his job. Such was the power of this community, and such was the gravity of the injustice that justice prevailed,” Matos said.
Earlier this month, Calhoun Head of College Julia Adams announced that windows depicting John C. Calhoun will be removed from the Calhoun common room and preserved for future study and exhibition.
Correction, July 26: A previous version of this article stated that a shard of glass from the window Menafee broke hit a passerby; in fact, it merely fell near a passerby.