Despite Protests, Yale Keeps Calhoun College Name

(Image: Yale University)

(Image: Yale University)

Yale President Peter Salovey has announced that Calhoun College, one of the 12 undergraduate residential colleges on campus, will be keeping its name in an effort to push the school to face its history dealing with slavery and to teach that history to students at the school.

The college in question was named after the 19th-century alumnus John C. Calhoun, a member of the US House of Representatives and US Senate, the seventh Vice President of the United States, and Secretary of War and Secretary of State – and a public supporter of slavery.

The issue has been at the heart of a months-long debate occurring at the school, with the decision leaving many who were hoping the name would be changed unsatisfied.

Bringing a similar controversy to an end, Salovey also noted that two new undergraduate residential colleges, set to open in 2017, will be named after American leaders Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin.  Many students disagreed with the move, arguing that Franklin, who received an honorary degree from Yale, had once been a slaveowner himself before becoming involved in the abolitionist movement.  However, Salovey said that Franklin was a “personal hero and role model” for Charles B. Johnson, the Yale alumnus who gifted $250 million to the school to be put toward the new buildings, and that it was he who had made the suggestion of honoring Franklin, reports Noah Remnick for The New York Times.

Salovey went on to say that Johnson’s gift to the school was not contingent upon using his suggestion for the building name.

In addition, the school plans to change the title of “master” to “head of college” in all residential colleges throughout the campus.

“We are a university whose motto is ‘light and truth.’ Our core mission is to educate and discover. These ideals guided our decisions. Through teaching and learning about the most troubling aspects of our past, our community will be better prepared to challenge their legacies,” Salovey said.

He added that rather than focusing on a name, the school needs to look toward understanding both its past and present and getting students ready for their futures.

The staff at the Yale Daily News, the oldest independent college daily newspaper, joined the argument in September, calling master an inappropriate term for today’s society.

“When a black student is asked to address an authority figure as ‘master’ — and especially when serving that person, as students do in their capacity as ‘master’s aides’ — the association can be disempowering,” the Daily News wrote.

The newspaper went on to say that the name change would not change the history associated with Yale or its identity, but instead would be taking a step toward making the school more inclusive, writes Abby Jackson for Business Insider.

According to the school, the decision to change the title of master stemmed from the current heads of the colleges feeling uncomfortable being referred to by that term.

The Black Student Alliance at Yale released a statement after the announcements were made, calling the naming of Murray College and the end of the use of the term “master” long overdue, adding that the continued usage of the name Calhoun “is a regression.”