Some Additional Thoughts on the College Formerly Known As Calhoun

Today, I have a column in the Wall Street Journal about Yale’s decision to rename Calhoun College. As I mentioned there, anyone paying attention to what’s been happening on college campuses, and especially to what’s been happening at Yale, will not be surprised at the decision.

Back in August 2016, Yale’s president Peter Salovey announced that, in response to various agitations from students and faculty, he was convening the Soviet- or Orwellian-sounding “Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming.” As I noted at the time, there has been something of a craze for renaming things on college campuses recently, as students have laid bare the RacistSexistHomophobicIslamophobicPatriarchalCisgendered character of so many of those benighted figures who had routinely been honored by complacent administrators of the past.

Thank goodness that’s changing now, and it was only to be expected that so heinous a creature as John C. Calhoun, slave owner and, horribile dictu, apologist for slavery, should finally get his comeuppance.  Imagine naming a residential college, and a residential college at Yale, that beacon of enlightenment, after such a repellant figure!

Well, as I report in the WSJ, that error is at last on its way to being rectified. The college once named for a man who had graduated as valedictorian from Yale College and then went on to be a member of the House of Representatives, a U.S. senator, secretary of War, secretary of State, and vice president is finally on his way out. Thank goodness. In his place is a woman (but of course) but unfortunately only a white woman, viz Grace Hopper, who was a pioneer in early computer programming (she invented the precursor to the COBOL language, for example) and long-term Navy officer.

Hopper had no connection with Yale College, but she did take advance degrees from Yale University. It is perhaps worth noting as a sidebar that Yale seems to be downgrading the status of Yale College, once the beating heart of the University, in the firmament of the university as a whole.

Two new colleges are in the works. One is named for Ben Franklin, who had no connection at all with Yale, unless you count the name of an important Yale benefactor’s investment fund. The other is named for Pauli Murray (right: I also said “Who?”), a black civil- and women’s-rights activist and Episcopal priest. Ms. Murray had no connection with Yale College, either, but university officials in charge of picking names for the new colleges must have been delighted to discover that, in addition to taking an academic law degree (as distinct from a JD) from the Yale Law School, she described herself as having an “inverted sex instinct.”