As the Yale Corporation gathers to decide whether Calhoun College should be renamed, student leaders in Calhoun are anxiously awaiting a verdict — and have comfort food at the ready.
“I think it’s a great idea to be mobilized with food and drink,” said Head of College Julia Adams during a brainstorming session with the Calhoun College Council earlier this week. “There could be a lot of creative things that we could do collectively in a way that would come from the community.”
The CCC was assembled in the Calhoun Fellows Lounge on Monday night for its regular weekly meeting, its last gathering before the Corporation decides this weekend whether to discard the college’s notorious namesake, class of 1804 graduate John C. Calhoun.
In recent months, many Calhoun students have grown tired of the renaming debate, which began in the summer of 2015 and appeared to end last April when the Corporation announced that the name would stay. But on Monday night — amid talk of Valentine’s Day gifts and a collegewide game of Assassination — the CCC was primarily focused on the Corporation’s imminent naming announcement.
“The Yale Corporation is going to vote on this — finally,” said Anna Sophia Young ’17, the president of the CCC. “This is a time for change in the community, so it’s important to bring everyone together.”
The Corporation’s April announcement on Calhoun divided the student body and made many undergraduates skeptical of the University’s decision-making processes. But over the last six months, Yale has unexpectedly reversed course, establishing broad guidelines for renaming decisions and creating a task force to apply them to Calhoun.
In January, the task force, which consisted of two professors and one alumnus, submitted a report to University President Peter Salovey recommending that Calhoun be renamed. This weekend, the Corporation will gather on campus to vote on the task force’s recommendation and, if necessary, select a new name for Calhoun.
Still, at the CCC, unanswered questions abounded: Is the Corporation guaranteed to accept the task force’s recommendation? Will the trustees reveal their decision over the weekend or wait a few days to announce the news?
“People don’t want to get their hopes up for no reason,” said Treston Codrington ’18, a student in Calhoun who attended the CCC meeting. “It could potentially be catastrophic.”
For much of the meeting, students debated whether the CCC should reach out to Calhoun students — potentially through a FAQ form addressing recent developments in the naming debate — before the Corporation meets.
Young said she hoped the college would find a way to educate students who care about the name but have not followed the debate this year. Another student argued that it would be easier for the CCC to help students after the Corporation announces its final decision.
“If we do something before, how would we brand this? That’s my biggest point of confusion,” said Nia Jones ’19, who chairs the college’s student activities committee. “It could easily go a certain way that would be a bit confusing.”
In Calhoun, student interest in the naming debate has ebbed and flowed over the course of the year. Last August, the college unveiled new T-shirts that pointedly omitted the word “Calhoun,” and some students refer to the college as “FKAC,” a shortened version of “The College Formerly Known as Calhoun.”
Still, as the renaming question has passed from one committee to the next, many students in Calhoun — and across the University — have largely stopped paying attention.
“Ever since school has started, I really haven’t been in a place where there has been a big drawn-out conversation about the name,” said Isabella Cheng ’20, a Calhoun freshman who was not present at the CCC meeting.
Codrington said students in Calhoun fall into three categories: those who do not care about the name, those who are tired of discussing the name and those who want the name to change but are “scared to get their hopes up.”
At the CCC meeting, several student representatives placed themselves firmly in the third category — desperate for a name change but mindful of last year’s disappointment.
“I think there’s so much uncertainty, and I’m not willing to hope,” said Sarika Pandrangi ’17, a former president of the CCC who supports changing the name. “But I’m also not willing to believe that it’s ‘no.’”
In response, Adams suggested opening the college house on the day of the announcement so that students have somewhere to celebrate or commiserate as a community. “It sounds like we should buy some cookies,” she said.
“Regardless of whether we can hope, cookies are a great thing to have,” one student replied.
The room filled with laughter, and Adams nodded in agreement.
A few minutes later, students began filtering into the courtyard, grabbing leftover food on their way out the door, before returning to their beds in the college that soon may not be known as Calhoun.