Calhoun College

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Calhoun College
Residential college at Yale University
Calhoun College shield.png
Coat of arms of Calhoun College
University Yale University
Location 189 Elm Street
Coordinates 41°18′36″N 72°55′38″W / 41.309974°N 72.927241°W / 41.309974; -72.927241Coordinates: 41°18′36″N 72°55′38″W / 41.309974°N 72.927241°W / 41.309974; -72.927241
Nickname Hounies, HounDogs, The Inferno
Motto E Pluribus Hounum (Latin)
Motto in English Out of many, one Houn.
Established 1933
Named for John C. Calhoun
Architect John Russell Pope
Colors Black, navy blue, gold
Sister college Kirkland House, Harvard
Pembroke College, Oxford
Head Julia Adams [1]
Dean April Ruiz
Undergraduates 425 (2013–2014)

Calhoun College is a residential college of Yale University. It was opened in 1933 as one of the original eight undergraduate residential colleges endowed by Edward Harkness. The building was designed by John Russell Pope. The college is named after John C. Calhoun, but it is to be renamed in honor of Grace Hopper in 2017.[2][3]

Calhoun, a US Vice President and 1804 graduate of Yale College, was an advocate of slaveholding[4] and states' rights. Since the 1960s, Calhoun's white supremacist beliefs and pro-slavery leadership[4][5][6][7] have prompted calls to rename the college or remove its tributes to Calhoun. In 2016, the Yale Corporation chose to retain Calhoun as the college's namesake,[8][9] but on February 11, 2017, following a report by a new Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming, Yale president Peter Salovey announced that this decision was reversed, and the name of the college would be changed to honor Grace Hopper, also a Yale graduate.[2][3]


Calhoun College courtyard, Winter 2011.
Calhoun College courtyard, Spring 2015.

In 1641, John Brockston established a farm on the plot of land that is now Calhoun College. After the Revolutionary War an inn was constructed that would later become the meeting place of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. From 1863 until 1931 the land was home to the Yale Divinity School, which was housed in three buildings known as West Divinity Hall, Marquand Chapel, and East Divinity Hall.[10] After Yale President James Rowland Angell announced the residential college plan in 1930, the Divinity School campus was demolished and a new campus built at the top of Prospect Hill, where it currently stands.

Although all the other Collegiate Gothic-style colleges at Yale were conceived by James Gamble Rogers, the commission for the new college at the corner of College and Elm Streets was given to John Russell Pope, a campus planner who concurrently designed the Payne Whitney Gymnasium.[11] The new dormitory became known as Calhoun College.

Like all other residential colleges at their inception, Calhoun had twenty-four-hour guard service and the gates were never locked. Jacket and tie was the necessary attire in the dining hall and meals were served at the table.

At first, Calhoun was considered an undesirable college because of its location at the corner of College and Elm, where trolleys frequently ran screeching around the corner. This perception of Calhoun changed under the popular Master Charles Schroeder, who once remarked that if the despicable trolley service were ever removed he would purchase a trolley car, put it in the courtyard, and hold a celebration to commemorate the event. The trolley system was indeed removed in 1949, and though a whole car proved unfeasible, Master Schroder secured the fare collecting machine from a trolley and made good on his promise to celebrate. Thus was born Trolley Night, a proud tradition of the college.

The coat of arms designed for Calhoun College combines the university arms, set atop the Cross of St. Andrew. The college colors are black, navy blue, and gold.

Recent events[edit]

Calhoun College 2011
Calhoun College
Calhoun College

In 1989, Calhoun was the first residential college to be renovated. The renovations, mostly funded by alumnus Roger Horchow, were done quickly and over the summer to minimize disruption to student life. By 2000, the physical plant began to show wear and tear again.

2005 saw the retirement of William and Betsy Sledge as Master and Associate Master of Calhoun. They were succeeded by Dr. Jonathan Holloway (PhD '95) and his wife Aisling Colón. In 2014, Holloway became the Dean of Yale College, the first African-American to hold that position. He was succeeded as Master by Julia Adams, Professor of Sociology and International and Area Studies.

In the same year a limited window replacement was commissioned amid Calhoun's controversial exclusion from the most recent campus-wide renovation effort.

Though partially renovated in 1989, Calhoun College was fully renovated over the 2008-09 school-year.

Stephen Lassonde stepped down as the Calhoun Dean in June 2007 thus ending one of the longest tenures as dean in the College's history. Within the Residential College system at Yale, deanships normally last only a few years, but Stephen Lassonde served as Calhoun Dean for fourteen years.[12] In late April 2007, he made the official announcement that he would be leaving Calhoun to serve as Deputy Dean of the College at Brown University in nearby Providence. The most recent dean of Calhoun was Leslie Woodard, who died unexpectedly at her home in Calhoun in October 2013.[13] Until June 2007 Dean Woodard was the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at Columbia University. A published author of short stories, Dean Woodard also had a history in the performing arts; she was a professional dancer in the Dance Theater of Harlem for a decade.

In late June 2007 Calhoun's mighty elm—host of the college's famous tire swing and shade provider for literally every Calhoun student since the college's founding—was felled. The tree was rotting from the ground up and was beginning to lean dangerously. Given the fact that the tree was actually taller than Calhoun (itself a five and six story building in different places), the tree posed a real danger to the college structure and Calhoun students.

Namesake and controversy[edit]

Main article: John C Calhoun

Calhoun at Yale and after[edit]

John C. Calhoun grew up on a plantation in South Carolina. He entered Yale College in November 1802 [14] and lived in a dorm on the college's Old Campus, Union Hall.[citation needed] His professors included Benjamin Silliman, and Yale Presidents Jeremiah Day and Timothy Dwight.[15] He did well academically, was selected as a member of the Linonia literary society, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1804.[16] He subsequently received a Juris Doctor from Litchfield Law School in Connecticut, and thereafter returned to South Carolina. After his student years, Calhoun never again had significant involvement in Yale and was never a benefactor.

Elected to the United States Congress in 1810, he made his name as a War Hawk before the War of 1812, then became Secretary of War under President James Monroe. He was elected Vice President in 1825 and served two terms before resigning to fight for South Carolina's nullification of federal tariffs as a Senator. During his political career, Calhoun gained a reputation as a great rhetorician and intellectual. In addition to his advocacy of state's rights, Calhoun was a proponent of slaveholder rights and believed that slavery was justified by white supremacy. Inheriting his father's farm, Calhoun remained a slaveholder his entire life and profited from the cotton trade.

Naming of Calhoun College[edit]

Because of his political, military, and intellectual achievements, Calhoun was venerated as an illustrious Yale alumnus beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. He was the only Yale graduate to be elected to a federal executive office in the school's first two centuries, until the election of U.S. President William Howard Taft in 1909. A 1914 biography of Calhoun by Yale Secretary Anson Phelps Stokes details his accomplishments as an "eminent Yale man" without once mentioning his slaveholdings or pro-slavery leadership.[17]

Already holding some of Calhoun's papers, Yale offered its first commemoration of Calhoun during the construction of the Memorial Quadrangle in 1917. Statues of eight pre-20th century "Yale worthies" were placed on Harkness Tower, including an eight-foot statue of Calhoun.[18] Of these, only Calhoun and Jonathan Edwards were selected as namesakes of the eight original residential colleges when they were named around 1931.

Modern controversy[edit]

A debate over the appropriateness of the college's name has waxed and waned, as John C. Calhoun's involvement in protection of the institution of slavery has been reconsidered. In 1992, the graduating seniors commissioned a plaque noting the unfortunate reality of John C. Calhoun's legacy, but at the same time supported the notion that the college retain its name for historical purposes.[19] Around the same time, a pane of stained glass in the college's common room depicting a shackled black man kneeling before Calhoun was altered to depict Calhoun alone.[20]

After the June 2015 Charleston church shooting, radio commentators Colin McEnroe and Ray Hardman questioned whether the preservation of the college's name was an inappropriate legacy of white supremacy.[21][22] The events, which instigated student protests and alumni petitions in the same year,[5] caused administrators to consider renaming the college. In their petition students argued that—while Calhoun was respected in the 19th century as an "extraordinary American statesman"—he was "one of the most prolific defenders of slavery and white supremacy" in the history of the United States.[5][6] In August 2015 Yale President Peter Salovey addressed the Freshman Class of 2019 in which he responded to the racial tensions but explained why the college would not be renamed.[7] He described Calhoun as a "a notable political theorist, a vice president to two different U.S. presidents, a secretary of war and of state, and a congressman and senator representing South Carolina."[7] He acknowledged that Calhoun also "believed that the highest forms of civilization depend on involuntary servitude. Not only that, but he also believed that the races he thought to be inferior, black people in particular, ought to be subjected to it for the sake of their own best interests."[4][23] In April 2016 Salovey announced that "despite decades of vigorous alumni and student protests," Calhoun's name will remain on the Yale residential college.[8] Salovey explained as he announced the contentious decision—that it is preferable for Yale students to live in Calhoun's "shadow" so they will be "better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future." He claimed that if they removed Calhoun's name, it would "obscure" his "legacy of slavery rather than addressing it."[8] "Yale is part of that history" and "We cannot erase American history, but we can confront it, teach it and learn from it." One change that will be issued is the title of “master” for faculty members who serve as residential college leaders will be renamed to “head of college” due to its connotation of slavery.[9][24][25]

Stained glass window panels in the college depicted images of slavery. One showed a black man in shackles kneeling before Calhoun. Temple University professor and co-founder of the Yale Black Alumni Network Chris Rabb advocated for that panel to be altered.[26][27] The alterations replaced the black man with blank white pieces of glass.[28] The university had plans to change some additional stained glass windows in the dining hall in 2016, but, before that was done, Corey Menafee, an African-American dishwasher who worked there, knocked out the pane that showed black slaves harvesting cotton in the fields, because, as he related, he no longer wanted to be subjected to seeing the "racist, very degrading" image at his place of work, but also added: "There's always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things." Manafee was initially arrested on felony and misdemeanor charges.[29][30] Yale chose not to press charges which were then dropped and, after initially accepting Manafee's resignation, rehired him to work at a different location.[31]

Calhoun's name has been tied up in larger controversies about the associations of the colleges with slavery. A 2001 report revealed that at least seven of the colleges' namesakes were slave owners.[19] In 2009, a student group protested the connection by posting alternative names for slaveowner-named colleges near the college entrances.[32] Commenting for the Wall Street Journal, Roger Kimball pointed out that Yale's namesake, Elihu Yale, was a slave trader, and questioned how Yale can defend the name of the university against similar moral arguments.[33]

Unique features[edit]

The courtyard used to have a popular tire swing, which stood in stark contrast to the stunning Neo-Gothic architecture. In the Fall of 1990, newly appointed master Turan Onat made it his first priority to remove the tire swing as he sought "to restore the courtyard to a grassier state." The seniors immediately reinstalled the swing overnight and Onat quickly reversed his policy.

Calhoun used to be the only residential college with its own sauna.[34] The sauna was removed from Entryway B/C during the 2005-06 school year.[citation needed]

The Calhoun College Council is a student governing organization that coordinates activities and social life for the residential college. Throughout the year, the Council organizes numerous activities including: Study Breaks, a dorm-wide dance called, Calhoun Screw, and Trolley Night, an annual dance party.[35]

Notable alumni[edit]

Heads and deans[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Master Julia Adams". Calhoun College. Retrieved 29 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Yale to change Calhoun College's name to honor Grace Murray Hopper". YaleNews. February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Hamid, Zainab (February 11, 2017). "Calhoun College to be Renamed for Grace Hopper GRD '34". Yale Daily News. Retrieved February 11, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Calhoun, John C. (February 6, 1837), Slavery a Positive Good, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  5. ^ a b c "To the Yale Administration", Yale students, 2015, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  6. ^ a b Caplan, Lincoln (October 5, 2015), "The White-Supremacist Lineage of a Yale College: The elite university still honors the South Carolina senator best known for praising the morality of slavery", The Atlantic, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  7. ^ a b c "Freshman Address, Yale College Class of 2019: Launching a Difficult Conversation". August 29, 2015. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c Glenmore, Glenda Elizabeth (April 30, 2016), "At Yale, a Right That Doesn't Outweigh a Wrong", New York Times, New Haven, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  9. ^ a b "Yale University will keep college named for John C. Calhoun despite protests". Fox News. April 28, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Before Calhoun College: The Old Yale Divinity School". Road to Parnassus. 14 February 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  11. ^ Bedford, Steven (1998). John Russell Popoe: Architect of Empire. New York: Random House. pp. 166–168. ISBN 9780847820863. 
  12. ^ Yale Alumni Magazine: Milestones Archived February 14, 2011, at WebCite
  13. ^ "Calhoun dean, Leslie Woodard, dies at 53". Yale Daily News. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  14. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 16.
  15. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 16–20.
  16. ^ Niven 1993, pp. 17,20.
  17. ^ Sotkes, Anson Phelps (1914). Memorials of Eminent Yale Men. 2. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 196–205. 
  18. ^ Yamasaki, Tritia. "The Character of Harkness Tower". Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs. Yale University. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Dugdale, Antony; Fueser, J.J.; Celso de Castro Alves, J. (2001). "Yale, Slavery, and Abolition". Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Bass, Carole. "What's in a name? Looking for answers at Calhoun College". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Hardman, Ray (23 June 2015). "Yale's Calhoun College: History Lesson or Institutional Racism?". WNPR. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  22. ^ McEnroe, Colin (24 June 2015). "The Ivy League's "Confederate flag" problem: Why is a Yale college still named after John C. Calhoun?". Salon. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Stack, Liam (November 8, 2015), Yale’s Halloween Advice Stokes a Racially Charged Debate, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  24. ^ Remnick, Noah (28 April 2016). "Yale Defies Calls to Rename Calhoun College". New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2016. 
  25. ^ Salovey, Peter (28 April 2016). "Yale retains Calhoun College's name, selects names for two new residential colleges, and changes title of 'master' in the residential colleges". Yale News. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  26. ^ "Yale Worker Who Smashed Slavery Window Wants Job Back". Hartford Courant. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  27. ^ "Yale Grapples With Ties to Slavery in Debate Over a College's Name". The New York Times. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  28. ^ Hardman, Ray. "Yale's Calhoun College: History Lesson or Institutional Racism?". Connecticut Public Radio. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  29. ^ Zamudio-Suaréz, Fernanda (11 July 2016). "Yale Worker Purposely Breaks Stained-Glass Window Over 'Racist' Imagery". The Chronicle of Higher Education blog. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  30. ^ "Dining hall worker loses job after smashing Calhoun windowpane". Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  31. ^ Ed Stannard (July 26, 2016). "Criminal charges against Yale worker who broke window effectively dismissed". New Haven Register. Retrieved 2016-07-26. 
  32. ^ Wang, Rachel (14 October 2009). "Anonymous campaign 'renames' colleges with slave past". The Yale Daily News. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  33. ^ Kimball, Roger (8 August 2016). "The College Formerly Known as Yale". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  34. ^ Shinzong Lee, Yale Daily News, 30 June 2002. Retrieved 12 Feb 2017.
  35. ^ "Calhoun College Council". Yale University. Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Scholastic Prizes". Yale Bulletin & Calendar. 26 (33). Yale Office of Public Affairs & Communications. 1998. Retrieved 19 May 2015. 


  • Niven, John (1993). John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (2nd ed.). Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 9780807118580. 

External links[edit]