Yale to keep name of college honoring supporter of slavery

AP News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2016 9:15 PM

Yale University said Wednesday it has decided to keep the name of a residential college named for 19th-century alumnus and ardent supporter of slavery John C. Calhoun but will eliminate the title "master" for faculty members.

The Ivy League university, based in New Haven, Connecticut, said it was preserving the name of Calhoun College, defying protesters who railed against it, to confront the history of slavery in the United States.

"Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history," Yale President Peter Salovey said. "We cannot erase American history, but we can confront it, teach it and learn from it."

The university announced that one of two new residential colleges under construction would be named for Anna Pauline Murray, a civil rights activist who received a doctorate in law from Yale in 1965. The other will be named after founding father Benjamin Franklin, a 1753 recipient of an honorary degree from Yale.

The two new colleges are part of an expansion plan for Yale's undergraduate student body.

Yale also said it was eliminating the title "master" for faculty members who serve as residential college leaders, changing the name to "head of college." Some people at the university argued the title master, despite its ancient roots with the college system at Oxford and Cambridge, had a painful and unwelcome connotation of slavery.

Controversy has surrounded the name of Calhoun College for decades, but it received new attention in the fall as protesters on campuses around the country called for universities to address the legacies of historical figures, such as Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Three portraits of Calhoun, a U.S. vice president and senator from South Carolina, were taken down from the walls of the residential college. The Yale Corporation, the university's governing body, had been gathering input from students on names it might consider for Calhoun College and the two new residential colleges.

Salovey said opinion was split among students and alumni on the Calhoun name and, in the end, it was decided it was not a matter of public opinion. He said eliminating the name Calhoun would reduce the likelihood that slavery would be taught.

He said the university also will be addressing Calhoun's legacy in other ways, including a work of art to be commissioned and placed on the grounds of Calhoun College.