WASHINGTON: Yale University is renaming Calhoun College, named for a white supremacist and slavery advocate, to honour a woman computer scientist (pictured) instead, following years of protests.
The university said on Saturday it was changing the name to Grace Hopper College, after the groundbreaking mathematician who studied at Yale in the 1930s and later went on to serve in the US Navy.
John Calhoun was a US vice-president (1825-32) from South Carolina who championed white supremacy and insisted that slavery was a”positive good.”
The decision to name one of Yale’s 12 colleges after him in 1931 —and decorate it with depictions celebrating plantation life — was controversial at the time and triggered demonstrations by black students.
Yale president Peter Salovey said the name change was not a decision”we take lightly” but that Calhoun’s legacy as “a national leader who passionately promoted slavery as a ‘positive good’ fundamentally conflicts with Yale’s mission and values.”
The announcement was a reversal of his position last year, when he said the name would be kept despite a surge in protests linked to other demonstrations following the killing of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston.
“At that time, as now, I was committed to confronting, not erasing,our history,” Salovey said. “I was concerned about inviting a series of name changes that would obscure Yale’s past.”
He said a set of principles had now been established that would address those concerns.
Hopper, who retired from the Navy as a rear admiral at the age of 79,is credited with greatly expanding the application of computers by pioneering the development of word-based computer languages. She died in 1992.
The Ivy League school in New Haven, Connecticut, is among several universities that have recently faced calls to dissociate themselves from symbols associated with racism. The decision was made after a meeting with the university’s board of trustees, the university president said.
Calhoun was also a secretary of state, secretary of war and a US senator. He used his power “to advocate ardently for slavery and white supremacy,” Yale said in a statement.
Salovey said Yale will keep symbols of Calhoun elsewhere on campus in order not to erase the past from the more than 300-year-old university. — Agencies