Yale employee smashes 'racist, very degrading' window, resigns

'It's 2016; I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that'

A black dishwasher at Yale University resigned after knocking loose a "racist, very degrading" stained-glass window in the institution's Calhoun College dining hall last month.

Corey Menafee, 38, said he used a broomstick to break the windowpane, which portrayed slaves picking cotton. His manager saw it happen, and police arrived shortly thereafter.

"It's 2016; I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that," Menafee told the New Haven Independent.

Menafee was charged with a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and a first-degree felony charge of criminal mischief. Yale asked the State Attorney not to press charges and is not seeking restitution, according to a statement the school sent to the Washington Post. Menafee apologized and resigned, the statement said.

Protestors supporting Menafee showed up to his courthouse appearance on Tuesday.

Menafee did a "service" for the community by breaking the windowpane, alumna Katherine Demby told USA Today College. "That racist image is symbolic of the current racial hierarchy that exist between the Yale administration and its staff, who are mostly black and Latino, as well as the continue lack of concern for staff."

University management of campus protests and unrest

But Menafee told the New Haven Independent, "There's always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things. It wasn’t my property, and I had no right to do it."

Campus climate background

Amid protests surrounding campus race relations, Yale students, faculty members, and alumni requested the university change the name of Calhoun College because it honors John C. Calhoun, a U.S. vice president and defender of the South's slave plantation system.

"Calhoun College represents an indifference to centuries of pain and suffering among the black population," said a petition that circulated campus. "It conveys disrespect toward black perspectives, and serves a barrier toward racial inclusiveness. Calhoun College will always preclude minority students from feeling truly at home at Yale." 

Breakthrough advances in faculty diversity

Yale considered changing the name of the hall earlier this year, but decided in April to keep it.

However, the windowpane damage prompted the university's Committee on Art in Public Spaces to review works on campus, Julia Adams, head of Calhoun College, told the Yale Daily News. The paper reported Yale changed course and decided to rename the dining hall after Roosevelt Thomas—another alumnus—and remove some stained glass-windows in which Calhoun is portrayed (Castillo, USA Today College, 7/12; Bever, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 7/12; Brighenti et al., New Haven Independent, 7/11). 

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