Seven months after Yale University announced that John C. Calhoun’s name would not be removed from a campus residential college, sparking protests among many students, officials said on Friday that the institution had adopted a detailed set of guidelines for deciding whether to rename campus buildings.
Three “advisers” will now use the guidelines to reconsider the Calhoun College name, which critics say honors a man who championed slavery. The advisers are G. Leonard Baker, a 1964 alumnus; John Lewis Gaddis, a professor of history; and Jacqueline Goldsby, chair of the African-American-studies department.
Alexander Dreier, vice president and general counsel at Yale, said in a conference call with reporters that the advisers don’t have a set timeline for making a decision, though officials hope to have the Calhoun question resolved early next year. The university’s board of trustees, the Yale Corporation, would make the final call on any proposed name change.
The “principles on renaming” are outlined in a 24-page report released by a committee of faculty and staff members, students, and alumni. Peter Salovey, Yale’s president, formed the committee in August.
John F. Witt, a law professor at Yale and chair of the committee, emphasized during the conference call that the group’s task “was not to recommend a name change” but to examine when a name change might make sense. The report also discusses how and why the residential college was named for Calhoun, summarizes the tensions over the years associated with the Calhoun name, and looks at other colleges worldwide that have grappled with controversies over building names in recent years.
The guidelines state that while renaming a building on the basis of values associated with its namesake should be a rare decision, doing so is sometimes warranted.
Earlier this year, Yale officials said they would not rename Calhoun College, citing concerns that removing the name would be equivalent to erasing history and emphasizing the need to turn the Calhoun name into a teachable moment.
“Changing the name ‘Calhoun’ would result in less confrontation with what Calhoun represented, and less discussion of who he was and why the building was named for him,” Mr. Salovey said at the time.
One of the new guidelines emphasizes that if the university decides to rename a building, it has an obligation to ensure that doing so does not have the effect of erasing history.
Yale students have been protesting the decision to keep Calhoun’s name throughout the fall. In October, 200 students and community members rallied to demand that the residential college’s name be changed.