In an email to members of Grace Hopper College on April 2, Head of College Julia Adams announced the Grace Hopper College Window Commission Committee, a group tasked with organizing the design of new windows for the college’s common room and dining hall.
The Hopper common room currently includes a set of temporary amber-tinted glass windows that were installed to replace a set of windows that included two images of John C. Calhoun, class of 1804, the college’s former namesake. Another window with temporary glass previously depicted African-American slaves picking cotton and was smashed by Yale Dining worker Corey Menafee in a widely publicized incident last summer. The dining hall windows currently include images depicting various Yale buildings.
According to Adams, the committee will gather proposals and recommend artists, from inside and outside the Yale community, to create new windows for the college. Candidate artists will visit campus to study the setting and engage with students, faculty and staff.
The 13-member committee, chaired by Anoka Faruqee, director of graduate studies in painting and printmaking, includes Adams; Associate Vice President for Facilities John Bollier; Associate Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan; curator at the Yale University Art Gallery John Gordon; Deputy Director for Exhibitions, Programming and Education Pamela Franks; and five other faculty members. The committee will also include two student members who have not yet been selected.
In her email, Adams stated that artists’ proposals might envision changes to some, but not all, of these various sets of windows in the dining hall, common room and staircase areas.
“It’s a complicated but exciting set of spaces,” Adams said. “What used to be the unnamed dining hall in Calhoun College has since become the Roosevelt Thompson ’84 Dining Hall in Grace Hopper College. And who knows? Perhaps the lower common room windows, which face a noisy corner on Elm Street, might someday evoke the Elm City itself. It’s a wonderful opportunity for artists in glass, and I look forward to the next stage.”
Adams added that the windows which were previously removed, including two damaged panes, are being conserved, and will be accessible for future research and study.
Timothy Ryan ’20 said the creation of the committee is testament to the University’s willingness to listen to community concerns and counter insensitivity and racism.
“I think the window change is a great way to truly shed the old skin of America’s troublesome past and christen in the new and improved Hopper College,” Ryan said, adding that the conservation of the old windows for study and future exhibition appeals to his interests in history.
Hopper student Eric Chiang ’20 also expressed his appreciation for Yale’s decision to conserve the windows, adding that keeping the windows will serve as a reminder of the past.
In February 2017, Yale officially announced the renaming of Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College. The change came after decades of debate over the namesake Calhoun, a national leader who supported slavery as a positive good. It also marked the first time in Yale’s 316-year history that a building was renamed due to the negative image or legacy of the namesake.
Paul Banegura ’20 said he was surprised it took so long for the University to decide that images of slaves picking cotton are not “tasteful,” adding that while he will miss the Calhoun name, it is good that Yale is replacing the windows.
But Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway, who will serve as an adviser to the committee, noted that University officials waited to form the group until after the name-change decision because they recognized it would impact the committee’s work.
“It didn’t make sense to proceed with the project until we knew what the name [of the college] was, and if was going to change,” Holloway said. “I’m assuming artists are going to be weaving in some aspect of Grace Hopper, who she was and what she did, and I suspect some conversation with the past as well.”
Faruqee said the committee will have conversations with selected artists about the subject matter of the new windows, adding that the committee will inform these artists about the history of the residential college, the reason for its renaming and the legacy of Grace Hopper GRD ’34.