Salovey appoints Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming

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As part of Yale’s efforts to promote greater inclusion and diversity on campus, President Peter Salovey has appointed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming, which will develop clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus.

“I have spoken frequently of, and remain deeply committed to, our obligation to confront this country’s — and our university’s — past, including historical currents of exclusion and racism,” wrote Salovey in a campus-wide email. “This commitment informed the announcement I made in April that the name of Calhoun College would remain — a decision that followed a year-long process of extensive conversation with and engagement of the Yale community, both on and off campus.

More about the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming

“However, in recent months, many faculty, students, alumni, and staff have raised significant and moving concerns about that decision, and it is now clear to me that the community-wide conversation about these issues could have drawn more effectively on campus expertise. In particular, we would have benefited from a set of well-articulated guiding principles according to which historical name might be removed or changed,” he continued.

 “After these principles have been articulated and disseminated, we will be able to hold any requests for the removal of a historical name — including that of John C. Calhoun — up to them,” wrote the President.

“We are fortunate to have faculty members with relevant expertise that can be brought to bear on the renaming question,” said Salovey. “This new committee will draw upon their knowledge in a more systematic way.” The committee — chaired by John Witt, the Allen H. Duffy Class of 1960 Professor of Law and Professor of History — also includes staff members, alumni, and students. A list of committee members, further details on its charge, and a web-based form for community members to share their thoughts with the group can be found on the committee’s website.

“I welcome the announcement of this committee: Our community is in urgent need of a common intellectual framework for addressing debates about renaming and historical memory on campus,” said Emily Greenwood, professor of classics and of African American studies and chair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate. “As a faculty member who has taken part in campus discussions about commemoration and the pain that names can convey, I consider the creation of a committee to establish principles for renaming a promising response to faculty, student, and campus opinion. As chair of the FAS Senate, I note that the senate has urged that Yale’s decision to retain the name of Calhoun College be revisited as soon as possible. I look forward to following the committee’s work and continuing to work with the FAS Senate to represent faculty opinion on these issues.”

Other efforts to promote inclusion and diversity

Salovey noted that the committee is a key component of Yale’s broader effort to promote inclusion and diversity across campus that started during the last academic year, adding, “If you have been away this summer, when you return to campus you will note some important changes.”

For example, after consultation with the Committee on Art in Public Spaces and other campus experts, certain windows in some of the residential colleges are being relocated, conserved for future study, contextualized in an exhibition elsewhere at Yale, and replaced temporarily with tinted glass. An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from students and other members of the Yale community.

Other improvements and additions to programs and events planned on campus include the following:

  • Fourteen Presidential Visiting Professors will come to teach at Yale in 2016-2017 as a part of the faculty excellence and diversity initiative that Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak announced last fall; the initiative is also providing funds to support ladder faculty hires and programs for emerging scholars. The Presidential Visiting Professors include renowned figures in the arts and sciences, divinity, environmental studies, law, and music.
  • An ongoing project is now underway to engage with Yale’s history in all its facets, both positive and negative. One element of this project is a website utilizing information assembled by the university’s chief research archivist that will allow users to explore the history of names at Yale, starting with the namesakes of the residential colleges. Faculty with relevant expertise are contributing to its content, and a team of students is involved in developing an app that will deliver the information in a mobile format.
  • Across the university, departments, schools, museums, collections, and academic centers have developed an expanded series of speakers and interactive events to promote learning, conversation, and reflection on the inequities in our society, such as disparities in criminal justice, education, health, and employment. For example, the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Yale University Art Gallery, and other partners will present “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now,” directed by Carrie Mae Weems, who will also return to campus later in the year for a lecture and discussion.

“I want to thank the faculty, students, and staff across campus who are working to create these programs, including experts in our collections, our schools and departments, and in the new Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration,” said Salovey. “We will continue to post updates and progress reports on the Inclusive Yale website; I encourage you to check back there frequently, and to read YaleNews regularly, for more information.

“I look forward to our continued work together on these challenging and important issues,” he concluded.

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