John C. Calhoun graduated from Yale University in 1804. He went on to become vice president of the United States, serving under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. A native of South Carolina, Calhoun was a major defender of the institution of slavery.
A residential college at Yale was named in Calhoun’s honor in 1932. In 2016, three portraits of the former vice president that hung on the walls of the college were taken down. That year, an African American worker in the dining hall used a broom handle to break a stained-glass window in the dining room that showed slaves carrying cotton. The worker was arrested but the charges were later dropped. In April 2016, Yale President Peter Salovey decided against removing Calhoun’s name from the college. At the time Dr. Salovey said he was committed to “confronting, not erasing, our history.”
Later, President Salovey appointed a panel to establish principles that would be followed when a request is made to change the name of a building. After the panel’s recommendations were made, President Salovey changed his mind and decided that the college would be renamed. In making the announcement, President Salovey said “it is now clear to me that the name of Calhoun must change. Yale has changed magnificently over the past 300 years and will continue to evolve long after our time; today we have the opportunity to move the university forward in a way that reinforces our mission and core values.”
Calhoun College will be renamed to honor Grace Murray Hopper, a computer scientist who earned a master’s degree in 1930 and a Ph.D. in mathematics and mathematical physics from Yale in 1934.