Dear Fellow Members of the Yale Community:
Many of you have seen reports about an incident involving a Yale employee who resigned after breaking a stained glass window in the Calhoun College dining hall. The window depicted images of African Americans as slaves that unsettle and offend. This incident has stirred powerful feelings, and many members of the Yale and New Haven community are communicating their views, in various ways.
This situation was regrettable for all concerned, and I want to assure you that we have worked to resolve it with compassion. We can empathize with the feelings of those who find the art in their workplace to be offensive, even as we condemn actions that endanger the safety of others. Yale requested that the State’s Attorney’s Office not pursue any charges against the employee, and that office has publicly stated they will be seeking a dismissal of the charges. Yale is not seeking restitution for the damage caused.
Certain images across our campus may be more appropriately studied in a gallery or museum where historical background can be provided than in residences or workplaces. Recognizing this, in April I charged a Committee on Art in Public Spaces to undertake an inventory of public representations – such as stained glass windows – throughout campus to determine if they are better viewed in the context of a historical exhibit at, say, the Yale University Art Gallery than in their present locations. Based on their work so far, a number of windows have already been scheduled to be removed from Calhoun College and conserved for study and future exhibitions. As Julia Adams explained in a message to the Calhoun community earlier this month, the Art Gallery will commission an artist who works in glass to design new windows for these locations, which will be temporarily covered with tinted glass. Members of the Calhoun and campus community will be invited to provide input and ideas throughout the process.
I am grateful to those who have taken the time to reach out, and I look forward to continuing our conversations in the fall.
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology