Yale Will Not Change Calhoun College Name | Connecticut Public Radio

Yale Will Not Change Calhoun College Name

Apr 28, 2016

John C. Calhoun
Credit Mathew Brady / Creative Commons

Yale University said it will not change the name of Calhoun College. The residential college is named for 19th century alumnus John C. Calhoun, who was an ardent supporter of slavery.

Calhoun was a U.S. vice president and senator from South Carolina, and debate over the name intensified last summer after nine black worshippers were shot at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Yale Corporation, the university's governing body, had been gathering input from students on names it might consider for Calhoun College. But Wednesday evening, Yale President Peter Salovey announced there will be no change.

"Changing history because we don't like it, because it's painful, because it offends us, as opposed to teaching it, confronting it, and using it as a guide to thinking about present issues having to do with racism and a better future, strongly outweigh changing a name," Salvey said.

But students and alumni who’ve agitated for the name change aren’t convinced. "Naming a college after someone is to honor them," said Yale Law student Katherine Demby.

Demby helped organize a petition to change the name last year. She said she heard the news of Yale's decision while she and other students were writing essays and studying for final exams. 

"I'm upset that they chose to release this information when they know students are going to be distracted and overwhelmed and not really able to respond," Demby said.

Instead of changing the name, the school will create an art installation criticizing Calhoun, and an online project to discuss lesser-known elements of Yale's history.