End of discussion

by Joseph Zordan and Alejandra Padín-Dujon

On April 28th, Battell Chapel filled with students of color for the second time this academic year since November’s “A Moment of Crisis: Race at Yale Teach-In.”

The assembly came in the wake of President Salovey’s April 27th email informing the student body that after “extensive consultation involving students, faculty, alumni, administrators, and the fellows of the Yale Corporation,” the new colleges would be named for Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray (’65 J.S.D., ’79 Hon. D. Div.)—a queer Black female civil rights activist—and Benjamin Franklin, the personal idol of Yale College alum Charles B. Johnson ’54, who donated $250 million towards the construction of the new residential colleges in 2013. Salovey also announced that “head of college” would replace the title of residential college “master.” The administration declined to rename Calhoun College.

Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews followed President Salovey’s email with a campus-wide invitation to “continued discussion” at Battell Chapel the following afternoon. Students frustrated with the Calhoun verdict and the decision to name a new residential college after Benjamin Franklin—a white male slaveowner who did not attend Yale University—mobilized overnight.

At President Salovey’s first word, activists tossed fake paper money. The shower of currency was repeated at Salovey’s first mention of Benjamin Franklin College, and at his final word. With every flurry, student activists seated in the front row held up Monopoly boards bearing the message “Yale is a Monopoly.”

Explained student organizer Katie McCleary ’18, president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, “We rained money down on Salovey because we know what matters to him and his administration.”

Many students wore T-shirts distributed by the Women’s Center bearing soul singer Aretha Franklin’s image and captioned “Franklin College/We Deserve R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Franklin received an honorary degree from the University in 2010.

Others covered their mouths with duct tape to protest the administration’s disregard of student input on the college naming decisions. Noted Ellie Pritchett ’19, co-organizer of April’s Queer Feminist Voices Open Mic at the Afro-American Cultural Center, “We’ve been through this a thousand times and we aren’t stupid […] we have no more emotional labor to expend.”

Once President Salovey ended opened the floor for commentary, a succession of speakers critiqued the premise that the decision to retain the name of Calhoun College had any moral or educational value.

Objected one student, “So my fellow students’ pain is an educational experience?”

“Yale does not have the resources to carry out this conversation. We are hemorrhaging faculty of color,” added Julianna Simms ’18.

The demonstration ended when student organizer Ivetty Estepan ’18 spoke the words, “I have some closing remarks” into a microphone, signaling students to send out one last flurry of paper money. Demonstrators then exited the chapel singing “We Don’t Mind,” an anthem from the protests of last semester. Several stayed behind to clean the chapel floors of paper money in order to avoid burdening the janitorial staff.

Concluded student organizer Eli Ceballo-Countryman ’18, “Yale certainly made the wrong move this time.”

Social media posts about the demonstration can be identified by the hashtag #WrongMoveYale.

Photo by Alex Zhang