Yale will remove from Sterling Memorial Library a stone carving that depicts a Puritan holding a musket to the head of a Native American, University officials announced Tuesday.

The announcement comes in the wake of widespread criticism of Yale for initially covering the musket with removable stonework. The concealment of the musket was first reported by the Yale Alumni Magazine on Aug. 9.

Rather than alter the image, the University now plans to move the stonework — which is located near the entrance to the recently renovated Center for Teaching and Learning — to an as-yet-undecided location where it will be available for study and viewing.

University Library Susan Gibbons and the University’s Committee on Arts in Public Spaces, which was charged last year with exploring ways to represent Yale’s diversity through artwork, began discussing the stonework in the spring of 2016.

The decision to cover the musket was made by employees in Yale’s facilities division who were involved in the renovation of the Center for Teaching and Learning, said Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor.

“They were told to figure out how to remove it, and they thought it was going to be too difficult to remove,” O’Connor said. “So they thought, ‘We know it’s controversial, we’ll figure it out, we’re can-do people, and we will cover it.’”

O’Connor declined to name the Yale officials involved in that decision. But she said the employees were unaware of the University’s principles for renaming, which were outlined in a report released last December.

The report stipulates that the University should contextualize renaming decisions to avoid “erasing history.” The covering of the musket contradicted that principle, Yale officials say.

In a statement on Tuesday, University President Peter Salovey said Yale should not “make alterations to works of art on our campus.”

“Such alteration represents an erasure of history, which is entirely inappropriate at a university,” Salovey said. “We are obligated to allow students and others to view such images, even when they are offensive, and to study and learn from them.”

The stonework was created during the construction of the library in 1929.

Correction, Aug. 22: A previous version of this story stated that University Librarian Susan Gibbons and the Committee on Art in Public Spaces decided to cover the musket with a layer of stone, as reported in the Yale Alumni Magazine. In fact, the decision to cover the musket was made by mid-level facilities officials. Additionally, the previous version stated that the Committee on Art in Public Spaces was established in 2016. In fact, that was when University President Peter Salovey charged the pre-existing committee with examining diversity in Yale artwork.

  • David Zincavage

    How do such incredible nincompoops ever get into positions of power and responsibility at once elite and prestigious institutions? Today’s Yale is regularly a national laughing-stock.

  • David Zincavage

    Fire Gibbons, hire some rational adult, and leave the damn library ornaments alone.

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      “Rational adult.” Heh. You’re funny.

  • Awal

    So, covering up the musket was offensive to the University, in general, and to Peter Salovey specifically because it is the “inappropriate [erasure of history],” but removing the carving altogether for the very same reason is A-OK and doesn’t constitute “making alterations to works of art on campus?

    What kind of blackwhite Newspeak comes out of this man’s pie-hole?

  • carl

    It’s a sculpture or a carving–a work of art. It may be offensive, or perhaps it is being removed because some people find it so. But call it what it is. Especially in your headline.

    • Joseph W MacCarthy

      Every time an artist puts a crucifix in a jar of urine or commits sacrilege against Christianity, people who call this offensive are told to be quiet because of freedom of expression or because it was meant to “start a conversation” or some such. Apparently Yale neither wants to respect the intentions of the artist nor let the actualities of history begin a conversation today.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Oxford started the “monument cleansing” movement with a protest of their Cecil Rhodes statute on 9 March 2015. The activists settled for a bribe. The same process was next seen at Yale where they successfully changed the name of Calhoun hall to Hopper. They got the bribe too.

    The DNC/Academia/Media cabal has promoted this is well tested political street theater from the minor leagues to be the major meme justifying resistance, the justification for all.

  • Anthony Lyman-Dixon

    Elihu Yale was a member of the West India Company which did infinitely more harm to the ethnic populations of the lands it hi-jacked than a few puritans ever did. Clearly the entire university needs to change its name to fit in with the sensitivities of the current generation of wingeing snowflakes

  • Tattycoram

    I wish the YDN published a photo of the carving here–in an article elsewhere, the photograph they ran (which they claimed was the offending one) did not seem to me to show a musket pointed at the head of an Indian. Their photo showed a puritan-hatted man with a gun-type thing and an Indian with a bow, I think). I would love to be given factual information so we could try to reach an informed opinion about whom to believe. At the moment, Salovey’s double-talk seems ludicrous.

  • Tattycoram

    Here is a photo of what is supposed to be the offending image.
    Quite frankly, to me the Puritan’s musket and the Indian’s bow seem to be aimed diagonally away from each other. The musket is certainly not pointing at the Indian’s head. And, of course, both men are armed. Do I need to retrain as an art historian in order to see a musket pointing at a head?

    • https://www.youtube.com/user/RubinReport Ape_with_PC


  • Anthony Lyman-Dixon

    CORRECTION ,Elihu Yale was a member of the East India company not the West

  • legist16

    Seriously, what is so offensive or inappropriate about the carving? Did the “scholars” who claimed that it depicts colonial aggression toward innocent natives interview the stonemason or whoever was in charge of the carvings to determine their intent, or did they simply conclude that someone might interpret it that way and be offended (we certainly can’t have that, can we)?

    Paraphrasing H. L. Mencken’s definition of puritanism, Yale’s political correctness is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be offended.

  • Billiamo

    Thank you for not posting a photo of the offensive carving. I couldn’t have borne it!!!

    Handwring, handwring, handwring . . .

  • Forbes

    Stone carving artwork in place for 90 years, now declared “offensive” by YDN–apparently following the current year mantra that “everything before yesterday was wrong.” Congratulations.

    • 100wattlightbulb

      Dump Peter Salovey

  • ThomasA

    “Committee on Art in Public Spaces”? Did the Committee on Public Space Committees sign off on that?

  • Sh’lama

    The carving absolutely and unequivocally does NOT depict a Puritan holding a musket to the head of a Native American.


    It rather looks like the musket has a distorted, curved or bent barrel to meet the size and shape and perimeter constraints of the stone block and its intended, decorative architectural purpose. Which is clearly NOT to be highly realistic, representative art. That the flared muzzle of that barrel ends up facing in the general direction of the head of the Native American Indian seems rather like an artifact of a distortion forced by that rather obvious consideration.

    It’s doubtful that Puritans aggressed against Native Americans with shoot-around-the-tree curved barrel muskets. Both the Puritan and the Native in the carving have an intense, focused, fixed, concerned gaze outward at some common object. The future, perhaps?

    Yale idiots are working overtime to help make George Will respectable again. Salovey should have been smart enough to not be taken in by this crap. What a joke.

  • York

    Okay if we are going down these lets eliminate anything offensive road… We know Yale doesn’t want to celebrate Calhoun since he was associated with slavery… but what about someone who lynched a native American, someone that headed up the East India Trading company that was responsible for more slavery than Calhoun could have ever dreamed of…. Shouldn’t we go after the elimination of any part of the university associated with that man as well?

    Assuming you think we should, then start protesting the name “Yale” because if you bother to look at the history of the man the school is named after you’ll find a dispicable fellow much worse than Calhoun or some cartoonish pilgrim.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    STOP this CRAP NOW! This Yale President needs to go. He has NO backbone and NO vision for the past or future. Get rid of Peter Salovey! How much more of Yale’s history should he be allowed to erase?

  • 100wattlightbulb

    STOP this NOW! This Yale President needs to go. He has NO backbone and NO vision for the past or future. Get rid of Peter Salovey! How much more of Yale’s history should he be allowed to erase? I had to REWRITE this, as it was removed for using, OH NO, the word C, the letter that comes before S and AP. Now, isn’t this ridiculous?