We are perplexed.
Yale purports to educate future leaders of all backgrounds through the free exchange of ideas. It attempts to cultivate an ethical, interdependent, and diverse community in which every member is valued. The naming of the new residential colleges—and the potential renaming of Calhoun College—provided Yale with the unique opportunity to honor these commitments and establish a powerful new symbol to embody community ideals.
We are delighted that Anna Pauline Murray is the namesake of one of the new residential colleges, and we look forward to celebrating her legacy as a civil rights activist, feminist, and alum of Yale Law School. However, the decision to name one college after Pauline Murray stands in sharp contrast to the decision to name the other after Benjamin Franklin.
Unlike the namesakes of the 13 other resident colleges, Franklin has little academic, administrative, financial, or geographic connection to our University. Additionally, the decision to name one of the new colleges after a straight, white, cisgender male makes it seem as though the interests, emotions, and identities of many of the community members who participated in the college naming process were trumped by those of wealthy donors. The Corporation signaled to students that Yale’s values as an institution—as a community—are secondary to the value of the dollar.
This decision—and the decision to keep Calhoun College—is unacceptable. These are not the Yale values for which we stand. Yale can do better.
Yale should reform its donation guidelines. Regardless of the amount of money an individual is willing to give to Yale, there should be specific demands he or she cannot make; naming colleges that will stand for centuries is one such demand. Additionally, the Yale Corporation should increase its accountability to the students it serves. In the future, we strongly recommend the Corporation make announcements when its members are physically present on campus and can meaningfully engage with the student body. It is unfair for college and university administrators—who were not included in the college naming process—to handle the response to such an inflammatory decision. Additionally, we strongly recommend—as we have recommended for years—that the Corporation interact more frequently and substantially with students. If the Corporation is charged with shaping the future of this university, its members have an obligation to meet with the students for whom this university exists.
Yale must do better.