Calhoun Who? Yale Drops Name of Slavery Advocate for Computer … – New York Times

For Calhoun College students who fought for the name change, returning to campus to see signs for “Grace Hopper College” was energizing. “I think for a lot of people this summer has shown that it’s sort of beyond this ivory tower intellectual debate,” Maya Jenkins, a Hopper senior, said on Friday.

Admiral Hopper helped build the nation’s first electromechanical computer, developed the first compiler, proposed the idea of writing computer programs in words rather than symbols, and retired from the Navy at age 79.

Not that the university went far enough, Ms. Jenkins, a black student from Indiana, added in an email. “The college being renamed after a white woman does not fully rectify the violences of Calhoun’s legacy,” she wrote.


Rear Adm. Grace Hopper saluting crew members aboard the USS Constitution in Boston during her 1982 retirement ceremony in 1982. Her naval career lasted over 40 years.

Bettmann, via Getty Images

The university has opened two new residential colleges this semester, one named for a black Yale Law School alumna and civil rights leader, Anna Pauline Murray, and the other for Benjamin Franklin. The latter decision, too, has left many people “a little miffed,” said Vivian Dang, a Hopper College junior. “It’s another old white guy being honored.”

Calhoun, who graduated from Yale in 1804, is not vanished from the campus. His name and likeness remain in the stonework above a couple of archways at Hopper College.

A plaque in the courtyard honors the “Renovations of Calhoun College in 1989,” funded in part by “the generosity of S. Roger Horchow, Class of 1950.”

“We’re never taking this down, because he was a great supporter of the renovation,” Prof. Julia Adams, the head of Hopper College, said of Mr. Horchow, a mail-order catalog mogul and Broadway producer. There is still an eight-foot statue of Calhoun high up on the university’s Harkness Tower, too.

Nor has Yale seen its final battle over an icon that some people now find offensive. Last month, the school said it would remove a “problematic” doorway carving that shows a Puritan settler aiming a musket at a Native American, after drawing criticism for simply covering up the gun.

And critics have pointed out that for all the effort Yale has expended on figuring out ways not to honor a 19th century white supremacist, the proportion of African-American students at the university — 8 percent — is about the same as in 1980, a trend that holds at most elite universities. Another 6 percent of current Yale students identify as multiracial, a category that did not exist until 2008.

But Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, said that the renaming was part of the school’s effort to make itself more welcoming to students of all backgrounds (along with more generous financial aid).

A black freshman at Hopper on his way to lunch on Friday agreed. “I think the name is a step toward inclusion and equality,” said the student, Mark Barnett, 18, of Sikeston, Mo.


Carvings of the likeness of John C. Calhoun will remain over a couple of doorways in the courtyard of Grace Hopper College.

Jessica Hill for The New York Times

For the minority of Calhoun College members who wanted to keep the name, closure is bittersweet.

“For me it will always in a sense be Calhoun,” said Lauren Lee, a sophomore in Hopper who fought the name change because she believed that Calhoun’s contributions to political theory, not his racist views, were the heart of his legacy.

The residential college was named for Calhoun when it opened in 1933. Since at least the 1970s, students complained about the association. Unlike many 19th century apologists for slavery who saw it as a necessary evil, Calhoun deemed it a “positive good” for both master and slave.

After the Charleston, S.C., church massacre in Calhoun’s home state in 2015 and the fights over the display of the Confederate flags, the rumblings at Yale demanding removal became a roar.

In April 2016, Mr. Salovey drew outrage when he announced that the Calhoun College name would remain. “Universities have to be the places where tough conversations happen,” he said then. “I don’t think that is advanced by hiding our past.”

Opponents would not let the matter drop. Many Calhoun members stopped using the name. “For most of my sophomore year, my friends and I would just say we belonged to F.K.A.,” for “Formerly Known As,” said Ms. Dang.

Similar protests were going on at Princeton, Georgetown and other universities over their racial histories.

Meanwhile, Mr. Salovey formed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming. It established guidelines to decide whether to change a building’s name, including whether the legacy of a building’s namesake conflicted with the university’s mission and whether the named building “plays a substantial role in forming community” at Yale.

In February, Mr. Salovey, following the committee’s recommendation, announced that the Calhoun name would go, because his legacy and values were “at odds with this university.”

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