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
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
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