Yale Daily News

A University task force has recommended that Calhoun College be renamed, according to Yale officials with knowledge of the group’s report.

The recommendation from the task force, which was charged with applying the University’s newly created principles on renaming to the Calhoun debate, positions the Yale Corporation to rename the college when it meets the weekend of Feb. 10 and 11.

University President Peter Salovey formed the Calhoun task force in December, after the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming released its report. The task force consisted of two faculty members, history professor John Gaddis and English and African American Studies professor Jacqueline Goldsby GRD ’98, and one alumnus, G. Leonard Baker ’64. Both Gaddis and Goldsby signed a faculty petition last spring calling for the renaming of Calhoun, named after slavery proponent John C. Calhoun, class of 1804.

On Jan. 13, the task force submitted its recommendation — which came in the form of a report running less than 10 pages — to Salovey, who will present it to the Corporation at the February meeting.

Last month, Salovey told the News that he did not plan to release the recommendation until after that meeting. Salovey was not involved in the task force’s deliberations, although he did have some input on the final draft of the report.

“The task force did their work independently, and their analysis and recommendations are their own,” Salovey said in January. “They gave me the courtesy of letting me see a next-to-final draft of their report, and make some comments. But my comments to them were really only about sort of clarifying the way their findings were expressed.”

If the Corporation accepts the task force’s recommendation, the University trustees would be voting to reverse their decision last April to keep Calhoun’s name. The April renaming decision incited months of student and faculty backlash, and helped unite Yale activists and New Haven community members in a growing “change the name” movement.

Last August, primarily in response to faculty criticism of the decision to keep the name of Calhoun, Salovey charged the CEPR with outlining broad guidelines for all renaming disputes at the University, starting with Calhoun. The committee released its 24-page report on Dec. 2, calling on administrators to consider historical context as they determine whether the legacies of controversial namesakes like Calhoun justify renaming campus buildings.

Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor declined to comment on the nature of the task force’s recommendation, but said the Corporation will decide the Calhoun issue at its meeting later this month.

“We have a process, we’re following the process, and we’ll take all the information into account when we make a decision in the best interests of the University,” O’Connor said.

Salovey did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Thursday night.

According to a News survey distributed in January, nearly 65 percent of undergraduates would like to see Calhoun renamed — an uptick from last April, when just over 50 percent of undergraduates supported a name change. But respondents were evenly split over what they expect the University to decide: According to the survey, 36 percent expect the Corporation to change Calhoun, 38 percent expect the name to remain and 26 percent are unsure.

The University named Calhoun in 1933.

  • J. Gatsby

    What a shame.

    Let’s change the name of the University next. After all, Mr. Yale was a white man and owned slaves.

    • carl

      Have you read the Witt Report?

      It says that the case against renaming “is at its strongest when a building has been named for someone who made major contributions to the university.” Yale did that, obviously. Calhoun, to my knowledge, did not.

      Additionally, the Witt Report asks, “Is a principal legacy of the namesake fundamentally at odds with the mission of the university?” As far as I can tell, Elihu Yale has no “principal legacy” other than Yale University itself. For what else, after all, is Elihu Yale known?

      Calhoun’s principal legacy, on the other hand, was nullification, the intellectual justification of chattel slavery, and eventually secession and the Civil War.

      Your slippery slope is actually an uphill climb.

      • Bernard Stanford

        Calhoun’s principal legacy changed from the time he was made the namesake of Calhoun College to the present. At the time, he was regarded as the Yale alumnus with the highest standing in politics (Taft was less well regarded and also too recent to be considered eligible). Calhoun was considered to be one of the greatest orators in Senate history, and played a major role in a key period of American history, supporting (if tactically) the American system, building up America’s army, and so on. The ’30s were in the period between when the North and South became culturally normalized again (in maybe the 1890s), and before the civil rights pushes that would start in the ’40s would begin to dramatically heighten North-South tensions again. At the time, the people who named Calhoun simply did not consider his defense of slavery to be his “principal legacy.”

        Of course, since then, he has become again notorious. The tradition of oratory and statesmanship he represented has been forgotten, while the issue of race has once again been revealed (after being swept under the rug after the end of Reconstruction). His principal legacy changed, and in part due to a targeted campaign waged by students with a political agenda.

        There is no guarantee that this won’t happen for anybody else. Morse’s virulent anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic stance could become a revived issue in light of Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders. Elihu Yale’s slavery and colonialism could also become a major issue, and all it would take to spark it off would be a few dedicated Indian-American students who want to start turning up the pressure. These legacies are malleable and a meaningful part of Yale’s heritage has no been put at risk.

        • carl

          Respectfully disagree, for several reasons.

          1. What has changed since the 1930s is not the understanding of Calhoun’s principal legacy. That in Calhoun’s case was settled at his death; and as the Witt Report shows, it was as well understood in the 1930s. What has changed since the 1930s is the evaluation of how Calhoun’s principal legacy matches Yale’s educational mission. In the 1930s apparently Yale did not see diversity as important to its mission. Now the situation is quite different: Diversity is written into Yale’s mission statement.

          2. And I do not think that difference either is or should be malleable. To put it more simply: Yale is not going back, nor should it, to the 1930s. I think that understanding of Yale’s mission has changed permanently. Yale is now a global university, and the planet is very diverse. Even if Yale were merely a national university, the nation has become far more diverse than it was in the 1930s. Either way, Yale’s aspirations are far broader now than they were in the 1930s, and justifiably so.

          3. Morse’s principal legacy is not his views on immigration. Which is fortunate, for his sake and ours; but determining someone’s principal legacy necessarily requires us to ask how that someone was outstanding in life and in posthumous effect. To take a non-Yale example, Washington was our first president and our revolutionary commander; he also was a wealthy slaveowner, like others before him and after him. Which is his principal legacy?

          4. Let us not overrate oratory as a determinant of legacy. Communications skills, in and of themselves, usually do not matter. What matters is the use to which they are put. Oratory is a means to some end.

          • Bernard Stanford

            Sir, the Witt report cites exactly what I described: that the tensions of slavery and the Civil War had been long since set aside, and not yet reemerged for much of the country, and that at the time Calhoun College was named, his defense of slavery was not seen as a major part of his legacy, but rather his statesmanship was.

            Let me quote to you from the report: “Calhoun also seemed a useful symbol to Yale’s leaders because he embodied their ambitions to
            produce statesmen of national stature. In the era of Jim Crow, when African Americans had been excluded from national politics, Calhoun came to figure in American political life first and foremost as a statesman of distinction. And so, in May 1931, the University committee charged with naming decisions approved the selection of Calhoun as ‘Yale’s most eminent graduate in the field of Civil State.'”

            Maybe his “true legacy” was unchanged the whole time, but his legacy as perceived popularly and at Yale, certainly did. I move that perceived legacies are absolutely malleable and that a number of other namesakes at Yale are vulnerable.

          • carl

            You omit the sentence in the immediately preceding paragraph about the Calhoun name drawing (white) students from the South. The report also goes on to identify three objections that were made at the time, on account of the secessionist use to which Calhoun put his statesmanship skills.

            Yale knew exactly what it was doing. As did African-Americans at the time. See the quotes from the period about Calhoun.

            The report suggests not that Calhoun’s legacy has ever changed, but that society and the University have.

          • Bernard Stanford

            The key line is this: “In the era of Jim Crow, when African Americans had been excluded from national politics, Calhoun came to figure in American political life first and foremost as a statesman of distinction.”

            it’s unambiguous. His principal legacy in that setting, at that time and place, was his statesmanship. End of story. You can argue that the legacy changed in part /because/ the university changed, sure. But the fact of the matter is that the Witt Report clearly says his legacy was considered to be statesmanship at the time.

          • carl

            I would agree that Calhoun’s name was used because Calhoun was the best example Yale had at the time of a historic alum who was a national political leader. But of course Calhoun led a cause–and that cause was as well understood in 1932 as it is today. After all it is why 1930s Yale thought the name would increase Yale’s appeal among white students from the South.

    • Mulberry Field

      Let’s pretend we have the power to exorsize Yale of all of its sins by chipping Calhoun’s face off a building. Let’s pretend that anyone ever cares about the character of a Yalie after they have risen to fame. We might forget that all of the colleges but one and the university itself are named after slavers or racists. All the ivies were built off slavery just like the rich of today make money off factories in China. Let’s play a game where we pretend to believe that university administrations give a thought to anything more than their own interests. Maybe people will all be able to keep lying to themselves about what holy people they are as they continue to live in a university built on the premise that a Yale man is superior to all other men. They could call it Frederick Douglas hall and it wouldn’t make them any more aware of their own glaring blind spots. How many of the students that cried about the name of their luxury dorm have anything in common with a modern slave? How many of them think they are where they are because of their genius and not their place in society? Do the teenage girls that make our iPhones end up sharing a room with the daughters of CEO’s?

    • horatio

      See below — Elihu Yale appears to have been a profiteer in the slave trade.

      Nowhere did the “task force,” or any university factotum, acknowledge this elephant in the room. So: rename Calhoun College ( a glorified dormitory virtually unknown outside the Yale community) but ignore the university’s namesake who clearly was less accomplished in life and more exploitative of slaves than Calhoun.

      Such courage!

    • Mulberry Field

      TRADED them! They brag that he didn’t own slaves while he actually made a killing trading slaves. And let me just say that the more I read about Calhoun the more horrified I am that Yale has his face all over campus. However this is Yale we are talking about. Let’s change the name of every street in New Haven so we don’t have to talk about how Yale runs off interest they are making on some old and filthy money. The whole thing wouldn’t exist without slavery. They don’t cry about old Eli because they want his name on their resume. People don’t cry about being a Rhodes scholar either because that name carries a weight.
      Great journal article about Madras in Yale’s time. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=26&ved=0ahUKEwjtpuve0ovSAhUbHGMKHY_VAQY4FBAWCDgwBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ohioswallow.com%2Fextras%2F9780821421062_chapter_01.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGhIdiGjh5c9L4I_gXyIPqH9RuKSA&sig2=D2WbK_NCzyoNpoeIVssXog&bvm=bv.146786187,d.eWE

  • Malcolm Pearson

    I will always have a sentimental attachment to that name, as it is a title in memory of a marvelous four years in my youth. But Calhoun was a reprehensible man then and now, in a manner not to be compared to other men memorialized at Yale who were implicated in the social customs of their era. I will let his President have the last word. Of his Vice President, John C. Calhoun, President Andrew Jackson said, “I would hang him if I could.”

  • Rod Carveth

    You can’t change history by eliminating the parts you don’t like. I am disappointed in this decision. I am even more disappointed that two of the three members of the task force had indicated their preference before serving on the task force. Talked about bias!

    The fix was in.

    • TMDC

      But it looks like they care and are sensitive. In reality, they don’t care but want to mollify people

  • Doncharles715

    Okay now lets go through the history of every college at Yale and change the names of all of them who are not what the blacks like. Time to get rid of “white Privilege.

  • Paul Promadhat

    You can’t change history by changing the name of a building. You can change whom you choose to honor, whom you choose to reflect the values of a community or institution.
    Eliju Yale participated in the slave trade. That was a bad thing that was more or less accepted during his lifetime. John Calhoun was a fierce defender of slavery at a time when it was under attack by a social and political movement that would lead to the Civil War.
    Most things are not black or white, pure good or pure evil. The inability to see both sides of an issue, (or to believe that everyone is either for you or against you), is called splitting. It is a hallmark of a condition called borderline personality disorder, and it seems to be fairly prevalent today, and spreading.
    Yale did bad things. Calhoun epitomized bad things. There is a difference. I choose to deny Calhoun and celebrate Yale
    (although I also wouldn’t mind being an alumni of Dummer University, or having my children be in Aretha Franklin College).
    You can’t change history but you can try to influence the present and future – you can try to improve them. I would like to believe that is the main mission of Yale.

    • Mariano Torrespico

      Correct.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    This alone is worth the $250,000 price tag of a Yale education, for the few who actually pay for it anymore. Nothing more important than naming buildings and renaming them.

  • Rebekah Fraser

    As a Yale alumna of color, I am disappointed by the recommendation to rename Calhoun College. We must acknowledge our past, accept our past, and rise above the unsavory aspects of our past if we want to heal. To cover up the past is to say we are too weak to handle the challenges in our lives. In so doing, we perpetuate the victim mentality that holds us down.

    • joeblow55

      Thank you for saying so. Better to leave the name and learn from the mistakes of Calhoun, rather than erase him from memory.

    • 4H

      Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. The name Calhoun makes an excellent point of discussion to travel the high road.

    • TMDC

      Too bad no one will listen to you. You must not be one of the “elite”.

  • ShadrachSmith

    All the committiees are just a beard for Salovey doing whatever he wants. If you don’t see that your tuition was wasted.

  • Schiehallion

    How was the “task force” meant to apply the principles to the Calhoun case impartially when two-thirds of the task force had already vocally supported renaming?

    • Tim Steele

      That about says it all. Why couldn’t the Committee on Re-Naming take its report directly to the Yale Corporation? It seems the fix was already in.

  • Awal

    Haysus Tapdancing Christ. Is it really this complicated of a decision that we had to have a taskforce? Is Peter Salovey this incompetent (that’s rhetorical, don’t answer) that he couldn’t come to a reasonable answer on his own?

    Rename the thing XXXX-Calhoun College (where XXXX is whatever influential Yale/Calhoun alum or contributor whose name that you want to “offset” John Calhoun). That way we still have the Calhoun name there so that we’re not “burying history” but in common parlance the college will likely/mostly be referred to as XXXX or by its initials (like TD).

    Problem solved; no task force needed. If only Salovey could have had the guts/common sense to do this two years ago and saved the university the time, expense and bad publicity.

    Trust me, if Charles Johnson had given $250 million for the renovation of Calhoun, you can bet it would have been renamed either Franklin College, Franklin-Calhoun College or Johnson College in a heartbeat and without any gnashing of teeth regarding the “important” role that John C. Calhoun’s name played at Yale.

  • joeblow55

    Whether you like Calhoun or not, he is part of the history of Yale. For Yale to bow to the pseudo intellectual rabble of the student body bent on erasing history is vile. And where is the History faculty in this debate? Sitting in their bunker, terrified to respond. Cowards.

  • joeblow55

    Now comes the renaming. Malcolm X college? Stalin College? Who will Yale pacify this time to its disgrace?

  • joeblow55

    Lets rename it Sarah Palin College. That should make everyone happy.

  • TMDC

    This is like a Stalinist show trial: convicting Calhoun in absentia and “punishing him”.
    The Soviet Union and Uncle Joe would be proud.

  • Papabear3rd

    So, did they also propose renaming Yale, since he was not only a slave advocate but a slave trader? If not, what hypocricy!

    • George Spelvin

      I was wondering that as well. Elihu Yale was also known to have lynched at least one of his own slaves for stealing a horse. So his school was founded on slave trade dollars and he himself carried out capital punishment against blacks.

      If one is going to be offended with the actions of a those associated with the early history of successful institutions, start by renaming Yale University itself.

  • horatio

    From what I gather, Elihu Yale was also leader of the business enterprise that maximized profits from the slave trade by splitting up families for sale to meet particular market demands.

    Yale University could make a real impact by acknowledging this historical shame publicly and acting accordingly. But no — like most SJWs, the administration will take the coward’s way out and pat itself on the back by making an inconsequential change.

    i would expect no less from an institution that decries the prevalence of white males in the study of English poetry. “In the room the [Yalies] come and go | talking of Michelangelo.” — Go ahead, be brave dear snowflakes: dare to eat a peach!

  • DavidL

    One problem with eliminating the names of white supremacists is that it disqualifies just about everyone from the 19th century and before. It’s not too hard to make a case that even Lincoln was a white supremacist, in that he believed whites to be the superior race. The 20th century does not look all that good either, come to think of it. Removing the Yale name from Yale is now in play, as it should be under the reasoning of this decision.

  • http://www.fuktos.com Evil Nick

    http://digitalhistories.yctl.org/2014/11/01/elihu-yale-was-a-slave-trader/

    YALE IS NAMED AFTER A SLAVE TRADER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The entire college will need its name changed ya dinguses

    • lantanalenoxx

      Only Calhoun College was named for a slavemaster. That’s been changed now. Yale is good to go.