New series of protests at Yale accompany start of academic year
By Evan Lips | September 2, 2016, 14:14 EST
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — With a new academic year underway at Yale University, activists are picking up where they left off last spring.
The focus, again, is on the name of one particular college at the prestigious Ivy League university — Calhoun College, named after American statesman John C. Calhoun, who advocated for slavery more than 200 years ago.
This time, according to a Yale Daily News report, members of the activist group Unidad Latina en Acción used freshmen move-in day to draw attention to their cause. ULA, which is not affiliated with Yale and describes itself as a “grassroots organization that defends the human rights of immigrants and workers in Greater New Haven,” looked to capitalize on the madness of move-in day and occupied one of the city’s busiest intersections, hoisting a large orange banner that read, “CHANGE THE NAME.”
A staple of ULA’s activism during recent weeks has been to deface the Calhoun College plaque by taping-over the word “Calhoun” and replacing it with the name of notorious figures such as Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler.
A ULA organizer told the News that the defacing is meant to draw the attention of incoming freshmen and to show them how offensive they claim the name “Calhoun” is and how it is affecting them.
“So now you know how people of color feel,” an activist hollered at one point via a megaphone. “We will keep on doing it until you get the point, Yale.”
Activists nearly got their wish last spring when the administration agreed to drop what students declared was a “triggering” term — specifically the “master” designation used to denote the position of faculty members assigned to the university’s residential colleges.
Yale University President Peter Salovey, however, resisted calls to dump the Calhoun name.
In an email to the university community, Salovey said that scrubbing the name from the university would “risk masking the past.”
“Retaining the name forces us to learn anew and confront one of the most disturbing aspects of Yale’s and our nation’s past,” Salovey wrote. “I believe this is our obligation as an institution.”
Salovey added that while he shares “many of the convictions” held by those who argue that the Calhoun name “constitutes present honor paid to an egregious defender of slavery,” he “disagrees with the conclusion.”
Salovey’s decision angered various student activist groups, including the Black Student Union, who called the decision “regressive.”
By refusing to rename Calhoun College today, @Yale proves once again it learned nothing from anti-racism protests of last semester.
— Tyler Blackmon (@TylerBlackmon) April 27, 2016
Passions flared up again in July when a university cafeteria worker assigned to Calhoun College used a broom to smash a stained-glass window that featured a mural depicting African-American field slaves.
The worker, who is black, was charged with a felony count of criminal mischief in addition to a misdemeanor since a student outside was nearly struck by the falling shards of glass. Yale dropped the charges after the worker agreed to step down from his job, but a series of protests that followed pressured the school to re-hire him.