The possible renaming of Calhoun College will be decided in February, University President Peter Salovey announced in a community-wide email on Jan. 9, promising a quick resolution to an issue that has divided the Yale campus for the past year and a half.
The announcement of a firm deadline for the Calhoun naming debate comes approximately six weeks after Salovey formed a three-person task force to apply the University’s newly established renaming guidelines to the college name by early 2017.
According to the email, Salovey will present the task force’s renaming recommendation to the Yale Corporation, which will then make a final decision on whether Calhoun should be changed and, if so, what name should replace it.
“I expect these matters to be discussed and decided upon in February,” Salovey wrote.
The Corporation is scheduled to hold its first meeting of the new year sometime in February, although the exact date has not been announced. Last year, the Corporation met on the second weekend of February.
John Witt ’94 LAW ’99 GRD ’00, a law professor who chaired the renaming committee, said the February deadline gives the University ample time to make an informed decision.
“February seems like a propitious moment to me — the seriousness of the subject warrants sustained attention and deliberate speed,” Witt said. “Next month sounds just about right.”
Head of Calhoun Julia Adams echoed that view, praising Yale for moving forward on the naming issue “so expeditiously.” Adams added that the Calhoun College Council submitted feedback on the renaming principles to the University’s task force last month.
Students hailed Salovey’s announcement as an improvement on the slow-paced renaming process last year, when the University waited until the final week of classes in April to announce that Calhoun would not be renamed.
“I’m happy that the University is transparent about the specific timing and items to be decided on,” said Alex Zhang ’18, a student in Calhoun who campaigned for a name change last year. “I would hope that they’ll be transparent about how particular interests — such as alumni opinion and faculty opinion — are weighed against each other.”
Zhang added that he would also like to know how the Corporation will choose a new namesake, if the trustees ultimately decide to change the name. Until Salovey’s email, the University had not made clear whether the Corporation would announce a new namesake at the same time as a potential decision to rename Calhoun.
Salovey established the new Calhoun task force — which consists of one Yale alumnus and two professors, both of whom signed a petition calling for a name change last summer — in December, after the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming released a report outlining guidelines for all future renaming decisions at the University. Last year, the University elected to keep the name of Calhoun, after a long-running campus debate that administrators now say would have benefitted from clear guidelines for renaming decisions.
In his email, Salovey said the Corporation will “benefit greatly” from years of community discussion over the renaming question, including hundreds of unique suggestions for new college namesakes.