Where do we go when we have symbols that might be denigrating to some and glorified by others? Share a little bit about your involvement with the Calhoun College issue.
Well, you know, I was at Yale as an undergraduate, I was at Berkeley College. So Calhoun College was our sort of sister college, if you will. One of the people who was in Calhoun College at the time was [Henry] “Skip” Gates, who has gone on to do many things in African-American studies. I was in the first class that admitted women, of course there was the Bobby Seale trial in May of 1970, there was the Vietnam war going on, so there were a lot of sort of immediate things that we had to think and do about.
I think it’s complicated. Because alumni, when they leave, they sort of like to fantasize that the university hasn’t changed very much. So there’s, I think ... some alumni, shall we say, are often very resistant to the idea of changing the name of a college because they know all these people that were in Calhoun. What are they going to call it now? I think that that’s been one of the difficulties ... The resistance has been in part to changing the name.
But I was thinking initially that ... we should keep the name Calhoun College, but we should change who it was named after. Cause there’s a lot of Calhouns who went through Yale, including a PhD student of mine, Claudia Calhoun, whose father is a black cop in Houston, Texas. So there’s the black Calhouns too. What was interesting was that really didn’t get a lot of response, and I think [the opportunity for that] kind of clever compromise is long passed. I think, actually, I understood things in a deeper way because of Corey Menafee.
Corey Menafee is a kind of hero for me for kind of clarifying a lot of issues. He’s very courageous ... what those windows, and that window in particular, show, is that this is not just about a name. Calhoun College really is a tie to white supremacy. And you know ... I have quite a few meals over the years in Calhoun College and never really paid attention to it ...
So what triggered you to kind of be involved? You followed Corey? You went to the judicial hearings? What was the kind of trigger for you to lend your reputation, your expertise? Literally a lot of Yale faculty members do not do that, so I was intrigued with your personal involvement.
Well, I don’t want to exaggerate what this entailed. First of all ...
But you were there [in court for one of Menafee’s hearings]! Your body was there. I have pictures of it!