Should you rename that building? Here are 4 guidelines to consider.

Calhoun College has been renamed after Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and navy pioneer, announced President Peter Salovey of Yale University.

Dropping John C. Calhoun's name from the residence hall caps a series of campus protests and a reversal of last year's decision to keep the name, report Andy Newman and Vivian Wang for the New York Times.

Salovey's decision to rename Calhoun College stems from recommendations made by his appointed Committee to Establish Principals on Renaming, led by John Witt, professor of law and history, writes YaleNews.

Three reasons why you need to talk about student activism now>

The committee included faculty advisors ranging from professors of Military and Naval History, English, and African-American studies, reports YaleNews.

After studying similar naming conversations happening at Georgetown University, Princeton University, and University of Texas at Austin, the committee established four principals to guide any renaming consideration:

  • Does the namesake's legacy fundamentally conflict with the institution's mission;
  • Was the namesake's legacy contested during their lifetime;
  • What are the reasons the college honors the namesake; and
  • Does the building play a crucial role in forming community?

In the case of Calhoun College, Witt's committee concluded that his controversial past presents an exceptionally strong case for renaming the hall, reports YaleNews. Calhoun's proslavery views conflict with the university's mission and weigh especially heavily on a residential college meant to form a campus community, writes Witt.

Now, the building commemorates legendary computer scientist, Grace Hopper, who received a master's and doctoral degree in mathematics from Yale.

Hopper College's dining hall now features a crest depicting a heraldic dolphin that represents Hopper's record of leadership.

Some students wish Yale had chosen a different person to rename the building after. For Maya Jenkins, a Hopper senior, renaming the hall "after a white woman doesn't fully rectify the violence of Calhoun's legacy."

Others, like Mark Bennett, a freshmen at Hopper, view the new Hopper name as a "step toward inclusion and equality."

Navigating the new wave of student activism

For Calhoun College graduates, the university offers the option to retroactively change their affiliation to Hopper, writes Newman/Wang.

For alumnus Jeremy Epstein, the decision is a simple one. He jumped at the chance to become a Hopper College alumnus because, he says, he has more "personal interest in a badass Navy computer geek than in a long-dead slave owner" (Newman/Wang, New York Times, 9/5; YaleNews, accessed 9/5, Yale College, accessed 9/5). 


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