To the Yale Community,
As the new academic year approaches, I write to update you on Yale’s efforts toward greater inclusion and diversity, and to announce an important new step we are taking related to the initiatives begun last year: the formation of a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming.
I have spoken frequently of, and remain deeply committed to, our obligation to confront this country’s—and our university’s—past, including historical currents of exclusion and racism. This commitment informed the announcement I made in April that the name of Calhoun College would remain—a decision that followed a year-long process of extensive conversation with and engagement of the Yale community, both on and off campus.
However, in recent months, many faculty, students, alumni, and staff have raised significant and moving concerns about that decision, and it is now clear to me that the community-wide conversation about these issues could have drawn more effectively on campus expertise. In particular, we would have benefited from a set of well-articulated guiding principles according to which a historical name might be removed or changed.
I have therefore appointed a Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming, and am charging this committee with developing clearly delineated principles to guide the university’s decisions on proposals to remove a historical name from a building or similarly prominent structure or space on campus. After these principles have been articulated and disseminated, we will be able to hold requests for the removal of a historical name—including that of John C. Calhoun—up to them.
We are fortunate to have faculty members with relevant expertise that can be brought to bear on the renaming question. This new committee will draw upon their knowledge in a more systematic way. Our staff, alumni, and students also have deeply held and well informed views on the subject, and they will be represented both in the committee’s membership and through its outreach efforts. A list of committee members, further details on its charge, and a web-based form to share your thoughts with the group can be found on the committee’s website.
This committee is a key component of our broader effort to promote inclusion and diversity across Yale’s campus. If you have been away this summer, when you return to campus you will note some important changes. After consultations with the Committee on Art in Public Spaces and other campus experts, certain windows in some of the residential colleges are being relocated, conserved for future study, contextualized in an exhibition elsewhere at Yale, and replaced temporarily with tinted glass. An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from students and other members of the Yale community.
For the coming academic year, we have also made many additions to programs and events planned on campus. To name just a few examples:
- Fourteen Presidential Visiting Professors will come to teach at Yale in 2016-17 as a part of the faculty excellence and diversity initiative that the provost and I announced last fall, which is also providing funds to support ladder faculty hires and programs for emerging scholars. The Presidential Visiting Professors include renowned figures in the arts and sciences, divinity, environmental studies, law, and music.
- An ongoing project is now under way to engage with Yale’s history in all its facets, both positive and negative. One element of this project is a website, utilizing information assembled by the university’s chief research archivist, that will allow users to explore the history of names at Yale, starting with the namesakes of the residential colleges. Faculty with relevant expertise are contributing to its content, and a team of students is involved in developing an app that will deliver the information in a mobile format.
- Across the university, departments, schools, museums, collections, and academic centers have developed an expanded series of speakers and interactive events to promote learning, conversation, and reflection on the inequities in our society, such as disparities in criminal justice, education, health, and employment. As an example, the Yale Repertory Theatre, the Yale University Art Gallery, and other partners will present “Grace Notes: Reflections for Now,” directed by Carrie Mae Weems. We are delighted that Ms. Weems will return to campus later in the year for a lecture and discussion as well.
I want to thank the faculty, students, and staff across campus who are working to create these programs, including experts in our collections, our schools and departments, and in the new Center for Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration. We will continue to post updates and progress reports on the Inclusive Yale website; I encourage you to check back there frequently, and to read YaleNews regularly, for more information.
I look forward to our continued work together on these challenging and important issues.
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology