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Yale Decides to Keep Calhoun Name Despite Activism

By Jalin P. Cunningham and Ignacio Sabate, Crimson Staff Writers

A wave of student protest failed to persuade Yale University to remove the name of former U.S. Vice President and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from a residential college named after him.

Yale University President Peter Salovey announced Wednesday that the Calhoun name would remain, and said he made his decision in favor of remembering and confronting the history of slavery at the school. He also announced the title of the faculty members who preside over Yale’s residential colleges would be changed from “master” to “head of college.”

Student protests against racism and for better treatment of minorities reached a peak on Yale’s campus last semester after Erika Christakis, a lecturer and co-master of a residential college at the time, criticized Yale as overbearing for cautioning students not to wear culturally insensitive Halloween costumes. Meanwhile, Yale’s Calhoun College became the focus of national attention because of its namesake’s association with slavery and white supremacy as students demanded a new name.

“Removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” Salovey wrote in an email announcement. “Erasing Calhoun’s name from a much-beloved residential college risks masking this past.”

Along with the replacement title for “masters” and the Calhoun decision, Salovey announced Yale’s highest governing body had decided on names for the university’s two new residential colleges.

One college will be named after Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray, a former civil rights activist and the first African American to receive a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale Law School—marking the first time a college at Yale will be named for a woman or African American. The other residential college will be named after Benjamin Franklin.

This year, Harvard has seen a similar debate over the role of symbols and names tied to slavery. University administrators made the switch from House master to Faculty Dean earlier this semester, after students and administrators said they were uncomfortable with the former term.

—Staff writer Jalin P. Cunningham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JalinCunningham.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ignacio_sabate.

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