After several months of protests, Harvard Law in March changed its racist seal that depicted the crest of an 18th-century slaveholder in Colonial America named Isaac Royal Sr., who built much of his wealth through slave labor in the Caribbean and Massachusetts.
However, Yale University will not follow suit in response to similar demands by students to rename its residential college named after John C. Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States and a notorious white supremacist.
While acknowledging the student community’s opposition to the controversial college name, Yale President Peter Salovey recently announced the administration was going to keep it, nevertheless, in order “to confront the history of slavery.”
“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. “More than a decision about a name, we must focus on understanding the past and present, and preparing our students for the future.”
Although the name was retained, Yale did move to end certain practices, such as banning the usage of “master” to refer to faculty members who serve as heads of student housing. They would instead be called “head of college.”
In addition, the university announced the construction of two new resident colleges, which will be named after Anna Pauli Murray, a prominent African-American civil rights activist and Yale Law alumna, and Benjamin Franklin, a slave-owner-turned-abolitionist.
Following Salovey’s announcement, a lot of people took to social media to express their discontent at the justification behind keeping Calhoun’s name — and perhaps rightly so.
me: why don't we have an ethnic studies requirement?— julia (@julia_allison) April 28, 2016
.@Yale And I don't mind Franklin, but taken together with the decision to keep Calhoun, it just seems like we doubled down on slaveholders.— Armando Valdés (@armandovaldes) April 28, 2016
Yale: We're keeping Calhoun College bc we want to confront racist legacy.— Dara Lind (@DLind) April 27, 2016
Yale: Announcing Benjamin Franklin College!
If there's ANYTHING that should be renamed, it's Calhoun College at Yale. Who wants to live in a place named after slavery's chief advocate?— Jacob Weisberg (@jacobwe) April 28, 2016
All joking aside, that was a pretty despicable decision for Yale to retain Calhoun's name on a College. He thought slavery a "positive good"— Drug Monkey (@drugmonkeyblog) April 27, 2016
There could be several other ways to “confront” the university’s historical ties to racism. By keeping Calhoun’s name on the building, Yale is still, inadvertently, honoring a person who staunchly defended slavery.
And that isn’t right.