After months of protests, Yale University finally announced it will change the name of one of its residential colleges because of the namesake's problematic, and downright racist, legacy.
Calhoun College was named after the seventh U.S. vice president and Yale graduate, John C. Calhoun.
Calhoun was a white supremacist and a slavery advocate. He went as far as to assert slavery was a "positive good."
Yale students staged demonstrations for months, and had even delivered a letter to University President Peter Salovey. The point was simple: By not changing the name of the college, Yale University was tacitly extending its support to racial injustice.
“The decision to change a college’s name is not one we take lightly,” Salovey said in a press release. “But John C. Calhoun’s legacy as a white supremacist and a national leader who passionately supported slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values.”
The college will now be renamed to honor "trailblazing" computer scientist Grace Murray Hopper, who “used her mathematical knowledge to fight fascism during World War II,” the university said in a statement.
Hopper's name was suggested by a number of Yale graduates.
Hopper earned her doctorate in mathematics from Yale in 1934 and served as an admiral in the Navy. She was a pioneer in computer sciences and is credited with popularizing the term "bug" in engineering circles.
Previously, even as pressure on the university mounted, the president said the institution had no plans to change names. It is understandable that a prestigious university like Yale would worry about being unhinged from its history and the implications of such a move.
However, Yale University has finally woken up to the fact that acknowledging history doesn't mean glorifying evil men.
“The Calhoun issue is complex,” Salovey said. “There are substantive arguments on all sides. Good people — moral and principled people — can and will disagree about it. These disagreements, however great they may seem, should not prevent us from finding common ground.”
Meanwhile, since the name will not be changed until July, some students took it upon themselves to update the college signs.
Amazing Grace! On Feb. 11, 2017, Yale Univ. "nullifies" Calhoun College and renames it for Grace Murray Hopper. pic.twitter.com/sDeq6m44W4— Victoria Puyat (@VictoriaPuyat) February 11, 2017
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Shannon Stapleton