Caving to PC-driven pressure and after years of internal debate, one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education has reversed itself.
After protests on campus as recently as Friday — when activist students blocked a road near the campus — Calhoun College at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, will be renamed after Grace Murray Hopper, a U.S. Navy rear admiral who “made pivotal advances in computer science,” as the Yale Daily News reported.
The legacy of slavery defender John C. Calhoun led to protests on the Yale campus in 2015, after which the university chose to remain firm on retaining the Calhoun name. And Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, said publicly back in April of 2016 that Yale would indeed keep the Calhoun name.
But he later wavered on that when he appointed an advisory panel to evaluate that decision, as was widely reported at the time.
Calhoun College was given its name in the 1930s. Salovey said the name-change decision was an “exceptional” case because the former vice president’s legacy and pro-slavery beliefs were at odds with the university’s values.
Calhoun, raised in the South, was the nation’s seventh vice president, serving in that role from 1825 to 1832, first under John Quincy Adams and then Andrew Jackson. He also served as a U.S. senator from South Carolina for 11 years, and in his post as secretary of war during James Monroe’s presidency, reorganized and modernized the War Department, as the Department of Defense was then called. President John Tyler appointed Calhoun as secretary of state in 1944.
In one of Calhoun’s most famous speeches, he called slavery a “positive good,” saying, “There never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.”
“We have a strong presumption against renaming buildings on this campus,” Yale’s Salovey said over the weekend, adding: “I have been concerned all along and remain concerned that we do not do things that erase history.”
Calhoun was a member of the Yale class of 1804. As a senator from South Carolina, he was a leading voice for those opposed to abolishing slavery.
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The university said it would not remove symbols of Calhoun from its campus and will allow alumni to continue associating with the Calhoun name instead of Grace Hopper College, the BBC noted in a report.
The name change will not go into effect until July 1. “People of good will and intelligence have many different perspectives on this question,” Salovey said. “We need to respect history and there needs to be a strong presumption against renaming.”