“Calhoun” Becomes “Hopper”

Lucy Gellman Photo Following protests over its namesake’s role in promoting slavery in the 19th century South, Yale’s residential Calhoun College has been renamed Hopper College, after a pioneering female mathematician.

The Yale Corporation voted to make the change Saturday after months of protest over the residential college being named after John C. Calhoun.

The new name honors Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist, engineer and naval officer who graduated with both a master’s and doctoral degree from Yale in the 1930s — three decades before the university’s undergraduate college became coeducational.

As a former U.S. senator, Calhoun served as a leading voice for slavery and against abolition. The residential college had been named after him since 1933, when Yale was seeking to woo more white Southerners to apply. When Yale decided to reach out to more black students decades later, the name became less of an attraction — and to some students, an insult.

When the Yale Corporation voted on the issue last year, it had decided to retain the Calhoun name. Then last summer, an African-American Yale cafeteria worker, Corey Menafee, smashed a glass panel depicting slaves carrying bales of cotton and was arrested by Yale police on a felony charge. This time around, said Yale President Peter Salovey, the legacy of racism was too much for the university to ignore. 

“It is now clear to me, too, that the name of Calhoun College must change,” said Salovey Saturday. “Yale has changed magnificently over the past 300 years and will continue to evolve long after our time; today we have the opportunity to move the university forward in a way that reinforces our mission and core values.”

He also noted that symbols of Calhoun and his legacy will remain on campus for the foreseeable future. 

Michael Morand Photo “In making this change, we must be vigilant not to erase the past,” he said. “To that end, we will not remove symbols of Calhoun from elsewhere on our campus, and we will develop a plan to memorialize the fact that Calhoun was a residential college name for 86 years. Furthermore, alumni of the college may continue to associate themselves with the name Calhoun College or they may choose to claim Grace Hopper College as their own.”

Reached for comment about the specifics of the vote, External Communications Director Karen Peart responded that “details of this and all corporation matters are confidential, but I can tell you that there was strong support for this decision.” Read an article with the full backstory here.

The decision followed a final “Change The Name” rally Friday afternoon at which four protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges. As news of the renaming reached those activists Saturday afternoon, it was met with excitement. 

“I’m feeling really ecstatic. The community spoke and Yale listened,” said Kica Matos, a longtime activist with Unidad Latina en Acción and the Center for Community Change. “No longer will this city or the university be affiliated with the nation’s most ardent proponent of slavery ... Not only did they change the name but they named the college after a women with an incredible record of achievement. What more could you ask for?”

“So many are responsible for ending this injustice,” she added. “For many years, students led the efforts. Then Corey Menafee stepped up and in doing so, encouraged the broader community to get involved. The collective efforts of this city—students, community leaders, faculty, local advocacy organizations and faith based groups—led to this glorious outcome.  Hopper College - how sweet the sound!”

An earlier version of this story follows:

Before Renaming, Four Arrests

Lucy Gellman Photo On the eve of Yale Corporation’s vote on whether to change the name of Calhoun College, one final “change the name” rally ended in four arrests .

The rally took place Friday afternoon outside of Calhoun College, a Yale undergraduate residence located at the corner of Elm and College Streets downtown. Gathering at the college’s gated entrance, about 45 protesters made their way to the New Haven Green, escorted by members of the New Haven Police Department. There, group members began their protest with rallying cries led by Jesús Morales Sanchez, an advocate with Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA).

“Hey hey! Ho ho! Calhoun College has to go!” he shouted. “Calhoun lives in racist shame / Change the name.”

Many people raised signs that read “Change the Name,” “Away with Racism,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Greeted by cheers, New Haven activist and philanthropist Wendy Hamilton read a letter from cafeteria worker Corey Menafee, who expressed support for the protesters and pledged that “rest assured I am with you in spirit.”

ULA Founder John Lugo identified the Calhoun name as a force working to foster the subjugation “of brown and black people” in the city. Holding the microphone close to his mouth, soft-spoken activist Justin Farmer proclaimed that “this is our moment,” and said that “I would prefer not having to face” the name of Calhoun College as a young black man in the city. 

Activist Kica Matos then stepped forward to address the group.

“Martin Luther King Jr. said non-cooperation with evil is a moral obligation,” she said. “For nearly 100 years, Yale has infected this city by attaching John Calhoun’s name to New Haven and to Yale University.”

“When Yale Corporation votes to change the name, it will be because of the courage of workers like Corey Menafee, who through a tremendous act of bravery this summer smashed a racist windowpane and brought town and gown together,” she continued. “When we win, it will be because of the courage of faith-based leaders, community leaders and residents of the city of New Haven.”

She added that there would be an act of civil disobedience ending in arrest, and urged protesters to “stand with us in solidarity” as it took place. She also said that those who were going to be arrested were doing so in compliance with the New Haven Police Department.

With that, she and three protesters wearing arm bandannas marched into the middle of Elm Street, holding an orange “Change the Name” banner that has become a part of the Friday afternoon rallies. Behind them, two volunteers lowered a tarp. The protesters sat down and lifted the banner to their chins. One pumped his fist.

Traffic began to back up on Elm Street. Drivers honked their horns, some sticking their heads out of car windows. The four looked on, chanting “change the name!” Others who had come out to the rally cheered them from both sides of College Street, some standing on snowbanks when the sidewalk became too full.

From behind the four protesters on Elm Street, an officer picked up his car radio and issued three warnings, in both English and Spanish. The protesters didn’t move. A group of officers moved in to arrest them.

In all, all four — two men and two women — were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, which is considered a misdemeanor in the state of Connecticut. After being processed at New Haven’s police station on 1 Union Ave., all were released on Friday evening. For their charges, they will be expected to appear in court and may have to pay a fine. 

The Backstory

Friday’s protest followed almost two years of debate about whether Yale University should remove the name of John C. Calhoun, a prominent southern advocate of slavery, from one of its residential colleges. In August 2015, Yale President Peter Salovey and Dean Jonathan Holloway opened a conversation on renaming on the heels of a mass shooting of black congregants by a white supremacist at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Salovey announced in April 2016 that Calhoun would retain the name. While the title of “master” — which had also been up for debate — was removed at that time, he said that keeping the Calhoun name marked a teachable moment, from which administrators and professors could draw when talking to students and colleagues.

Daniela Brighenti File Photo The decision seemed like it would stick, for a while. Then in June, an African-American Yale cafeteria worker, Corey Menafee, smashed a glass panel depicting slaves carrying bales of cotton and was arrested by Yale police on a felony charge. The first report of that arrest came a month later; it was followed by nationwide condemnation, with hundreds turning out to protest and urge Yale to drop felony charges against him. Calling the case “regrettable,” the university ultimately rehired Menafee. The activists also called for reopening the Calhoun-renaming debate. Salovey in August reopened the renaming discussion.

This time, the debate drew attention from both Yale students and New Haveners. As protesters including activist Kica Matos instituted a weekly “Change the Name” rally downtown, Salovey announced the creation of a new Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming. The committee included Yale faculty, alumni, staff and students who could, through their professional expertise and community input, “guide Yale in decisions about whether to remove a historical name from a building or other prominent structure or space on campus.”

Last December the committee released a report giving a scholarly basis for renaming the college — without actually recommending whether to rename it. Salovey then established a task force to make a recommendation on which the Yale Corporation would ultimately vote. That group comprises G. Leonard Baker ’64 (Calhoun College); John Lewis Gaddis, the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History; and Jacqueline Goldsby, professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies and chair of the Department of African American Studies.

As of Feb. 2, that task force had recommended changing the name, according to an article in the Yale Daily News.

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posted by: Bill Saunders on February 10, 2017  9:03pm

The Disorderly Conduct charges will be pled down to ‘Disturbing the Pizza.’

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on February 11, 2017  9:57am

A people’s history cannot be changed only embraced.  Western Civilization is the first civilization on earth to eradicate the intrinsically evil atrocity of slavery.  Therefore, the narrative that the past is oppressing people today is a self-refuting proposition.  Rather than using vitally important energy to eradicate what Western Man has already accomplished in the United States in order to duplicity gain more political power for themselves by using the name of Calhoun to erroneously claim contemporary oppression, the protesters’ energy might better be utilized by trying to eradicate slavery in Africa and Asia where it is still rampant.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 11, 2017  11:29am

These chronic protesters who diminish and cause problems for others should be sued. They waste tax dollars and victimize people by robbing them of their time and money. Free speech in public spaces should not create victims. Why harm all of us when you want to influence a handful of elites in the Yale board room? Instead of talking into the mirror and only talking to those who agree with them, Matos and Lugo should consider others and be considerate of them as well.

posted by: 1644 on February 11, 2017  3:59pm

Hopper College.

posted by: SparkJames on February 11, 2017  4:58pm

Timothy, waiters and waitresses in the United States have been working for 2 dollars an hour since 1991. There’s plenty of work here and now to eradicate our own slavery. Including mental slavery. And in Trump’s America, safeguards against child labor and debt slavery are being rolled back by the day.

So I agree with some of your sentiment in our progress on this continent, but a healthy society is continuously improving, not stagnating in 1950’s American white male glory.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 11, 2017  11:34pm

About damn time!

posted by: SparkJames on February 12, 2017  12:33am

Speaking of A People’s History, everyone should be reading the book of the same name,  by Howard Zinn. There’s your new, primary, history text. Chisel that on a building, 2017.

posted by: steve on February 12, 2017  8:00am

Well, I will be able to sleep better now that this protest has made the world a better place to live. With all the protests going on, one would think conditions would improve, I am still waiting for the positive effects to kick in.
People have way too much time on their hands and their priorities are askew. Get a life.

posted by: Noteworthy on February 12, 2017  12:02pm

Scoreboard Notes:

1. Screamers 1. Normal 0.

2. Do we dare hope that the irrational traffic obstruction and confrontation with unaffiliated taxpayers will now stop?

3. No chance in hell. Professional protesters will just shift their focus to the next “atrocity.”

4. Look for Matos and Lugo to hold a press conference to take a victory lap and to tell the walking dead what’s next for their mindless chanting and protests.

posted by: westville man on February 12, 2017  1:25pm

Chalk up one for the good guys. Hip hip hooray!

posted by: Clovers on February 12, 2017  1:54pm

Just a little piece of history ...

Yale is named after Elihu Yale, in gratitude for his donation of 417 books, a portrait of King George I, and nine bales of goods, which were sold by the school for £800 pound sterling in 1718.

The evidence establishing Elihu Yale’s involvement in the slave trade is clear and compelling. Look it up.

Why mess around with just Calhoun?  Heck ... let’s get down to some real business ... when do the protests about renaming Yale University begin?

We can’t re-write history, we can only choose to learn from it. 

If people actually educated themselves with facts, rather feel-goody soundbites, maybe we could focus on real rather than manufactured “problems”.

posted by: westville man on February 12, 2017  2:43pm

To the argument that others, including Elihu Yale, owned Africans and therefore renaming this College was a waste of time:  Sometimes you can’t win a war all at once, if at all. It doesn’t mean a battle can’t be fought and a victory can’t be celebrated.

posted by: 1644 on February 12, 2017  2:55pm

Calhoun College was certainly an embarrassment, but the circumstance of this change shows crime pays.  The mayor has been pro-crime, supporting the position that if one finds something offensive, one should destroy it and face no consequences.  The NHI has also promoted criminal vandalism in the name of censorship.  This action will embolden other criminal elements in New Haven, such as those who shut down route 34.

posted by: TheMadcap on February 12, 2017  3:07pm

You don’t remember history by wilfully honoring a white supremacist. I mean its not even like Calhoun donated the money to build the hall, the Calhoun College opened in the 1930s, Calhoun had beed dead for 80 years. His name on the building only honored him. Elihu Yale at least donated a hefty amount of supplies to help expand the fledgling college, not to mention bringing him up is grasping at straws to make an argument. One of the world’s most prominent educational institutions(or corporation if you will) changing its name after 300 years is a whole different obstacle course than the university changing the name of one its dorms. Good lord.

posted by: Eric B. Smith on February 12, 2017  3:14pm

I ask this with absolute sincerity and while looking for real answers:  What does this really change and how?

1.  What does this change about Yale (both the university and its students) and how?
2.  What does this change about the New Haven community and how?
3.  What does this change about those who pushed for the change and how?

posted by: westville man on February 12, 2017  4:04pm

So now this small victory has to be a panacea for changing Yale, New Haven, and some residents?  The publicly displaying and honoring of Calhoun on “college”  is now gone. I celebrate that.

posted by: Eric B. Smith on February 12, 2017  4:39pm

@westville man…I never said this “has to be…” anything.  I just asked a simple question to find out the overall point of this.  If your answer is that the only thing that changed is that the “displaying and honoring of Calhoun on a college” is no longer happening, then my follow-up question is was the cost of blocking a street, getting arrested, and using police resources that could have been used elsewhere, in addition to all of the other things leading up to this, worth it?  Also, based on your earlier post, what’s the “war” in which this is a “battle” that’s been won?

posted by: Clovers on February 12, 2017  6:05pm

@Eric

Really good and thoughtful questions.  Here are my thoughts:

1. Absolutely nothing
2. Absolutely nothing
3. It will embolden the chronic protestors that seem to believe blocking streets is the equivalent of a peaceful protest, to continue to behave lawlessly while they decide what they want to be selectively outraged at next.  Their future lawlessness will then be defended by NHI and their supporters while they continue to victimize and disrupt the residents of New Haven and waste police and taxpayers resources.

posted by: duncanidaho645 on February 12, 2017  6:06pm

Look deep into yales financial history and you will find that most of its endowment comes from the profits of slave owners.

posted by: westville man on February 12, 2017  6:17pm

Eric B Snith. My apologies in not taking your post with the sincerity with which you meant.  Thought it might be tongue-in-cheek based upon what I thought I might know about you. That’s my fault.
Here are my answers to your question – yes, this was well worth the protests,  The street blocking and the police presence.  In my opinion, this righted a wrong.
The war I am talking about is the war on racism.  Racism and racial relations in all manifestations. More sophisticated and more complicated the most whites understand or care to try to understand. But I am thinking that you do.  Please forgive the typos on this iPhone.

posted by: Eric B. Smith on February 12, 2017  9:31pm

@westville man…Historically, when people fought the war on racism, they were usually fighting to get a law changed or enacted that would concretely affect the lives of large groups of people in real, tangible, and measurable ways which made what they endured worth it.  While it’s fine that they changed the name of the college, the cost of getting it done seems to far outweigh the benefit of getting it done.  And with complete respect to all those who worked so hard for this, this name change doesn’t accomplish much in the war on racism.  If it’s just a small battle in the war, then what’s the overall plan and strategy?  Now I’m being tongue-in-cheek…I accept your apology, but you may owe me another, LOL.  When you said, “...More sophisticated and more complicated [than] most whites understand or care to try to understand. But I am thinking that you do,” it sounds as if you think I’m white, but you’re not sure.  For the record, I’m African-american.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 12, 2017  10:59pm

What is wrong with you people?

Can you not put yourself in the shoes of a black individual having to live or work in a building that Yale named in honor of someone who argued that Negroes were better off as slaves?

Why Yale chose to do so, (not in 19th century America, but instead during the Jim Crow 1930’s), is a question that still deserves a full inquiry. But consensus is that it was a move meant to make the sons of wealthy Southerners feel more at home in New Haven.

Calhoun was not a great man who happened to own slaves. Instead he was one of the most ardent defenders of the institution, and someone who laid the intellectual and political groundwork for the secessionist movement and our bloody Civil War. That is what the statesman was known for, and it is not something that should ever have been honored by Yale.

But please put your white man’s guilt and insensitivity aside, and try to put yourself in the shoes of fellow Americans who happen to be black. Or is that beyond your human capacity?

posted by: robn on February 12, 2017  11:40pm

Am I really the only person scratching their head about why the college wasn’t renamed in honor of an African American? Really?

posted by: Eric B. Smith on February 13, 2017  6:07am

@Anderson Scooper…I’ll answer your questions, even though the tone was condescending and demeaning.  There’s nothing wrong with “[us] people” and I’ll try to put aside my “white man’s guilt” and put myself in the shoes of “fellow Americans who happen to be black.”  It might be “beyond my human capacity” though, since I’m an African-American who graduated from Yale, worked at Yale, lived in New Haven, and tried, with others, to get Yale to do some things on behalf of New Haven’s African-American community.

posted by: westville man on February 13, 2017  6:51am

If you are the Rev Dr. Eric B. Smith, I know who you are and that you are African American. And I have the utmost respect for you. 
I am white. This battle at least raised the issue of whom we celebrate and in doing so made some whites think about race more than they usually do- which is almost never. 
I stand by my belief that’s it was a good thing, on the balance.

posted by: Peter99 on February 13, 2017  9:09am

Great, the name was /is being changed. This is a small victory that in a couple of years will be all but forgotten. Given the current climate at Yale, almost anything progressive to do with race, gender, etc. can be achieved. The real battle is to attack the root cause of problems afflicting black people. Spare me the dialogue of why we are where we are, and why we should feel sorry for ourselves. Our kids are having kids. The males fathering these babies do not accept responsibility for paying for, nurturing, disciplining, or teaching them how to be responsible productive citizens. The problem is affecting all of our black kids, but predominately our black male children. Seventy percent of our kids are raised with no male in the house. There is no resident male presence to provide an example to emulate. All races have problems with their children, but we have a disproportionate problem. Forget why, slavery is in the rear view mirror. We have a current problem and we should be trying to figure out how to change attitudes towards marriage and fatherhood in our community. Money is not going to fix it. We need to break this cycle of fatherless kids before it breaks us. Lets demonstrate for this. Lets stop the gun violence that is killing our young men. Do not blame the gun, blame the culture of violence, and change the culture that says it is okay to settle disputes by killing folks.  We got big problems and it is time to get serious about solutions. A lot of people make a lot of money by keeping us dependent on local, state and federal government. A lot (not all) of our clergy make a living off keeping us dependent. It is time for us to mobilize as a community and support families and education. It is okay to be smart, speak properly, and have an education. We can do this without losing our cultural identity. No education, no moral compass and no male fathers at home equals continued slavery without chains. Lets get serious about life.

posted by: Eric B. Smith on February 13, 2017  10:22am

@Westville man…I agree that it generally is good.  But relative to Calhoun College, and before I say this I have to mention that I am NOT suggesting another change the name movement gets started, I always thought the history of Samuel Morse of Morse College fame and that college’s direct connection to New Haven history relative to Hillhouse High School and whom it’s named after would have made it a better target for a name change campaign.

posted by: William Kurtz on February 13, 2017  12:48pm

” Western Civilization is the first civilization on earth to eradicate the intrinsically evil atrocity of slavery.  Therefore, the narrative that the past is oppressing people today is a self-refuting proposition. “

Wherever did you get the idea that slavery had been ‘eradicated’?

U.S. State Department: https://www.state.gov/j/tip/what/

It’s true that the United States and other nations have abolished ‘chattel slavery’ the system under which human beings are openly and legally bought, sold, and traded as property but for all intents and purposes, a staggering number of people still enslaved around the world and their exploited labor plays a large role in the economies of western democracies.

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on February 13, 2017  9:28pm

Hello Mr. Kurtz,

All slavery is exploitation but not all exploitation is slavery.  I believe the outright buying and selling of human beings is properly defined as slavery but your distinction has merit.  Maybe even more than you suspect. We are all exploited as slaves, albeit of a different kind but paradoxically to even a greater degree than the ones that were owned, by the Hobbelockean worldview in which we are forced to participate, with its Godless constitutions that prevent objective moral proscriptions on the free market. Liberty is the god that failed.

posted by: Katargyna on February 18, 2017  1:26pm

For an upper class Yalie a building named after a slaver is more important than anything, including the poverty and actual violence going on six blocks away from their ivory tower. The Dakota pipeline is more important to these kids than all the starving people in the world. I’m not worried about the kids who can afford sleep away college I worry about the disadvantaged young people who end up in gangs. Stop mansplaining oppression to the poor. Go volunteer with people that have real problems maybe you’ll stop feeling sorry for yourselves in your gilded halls.