College

Yale University will keep college named for John C. Calhoun despite protests

A 19th century portrait of John C. Calhoun.

A 19th century portrait of John C. Calhoun.

Yale University announced Wednesday it will keep the name of a residential college named after 19th century alumnus and slavery supporter John C. Calhoun, but will eliminate the title of “master” for faculty members.

The Ivy League university said it was preserving the name of Calhoun College, despite fierce protests that called for the removal of Calhoun’s name to confront the history of slavery in the U.S.

"Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history," Yale President Peter Salovey said. "We cannot erase American history, but we can confront it, teach it and learn from it."

Two of the school’s new residential colleges under construction will be named for Anna Pauline Murray, a civil rights activist who received a doctorate in law from Yale in 1965. The other will be named after founding father Benjamin Franklin, a 1753 recipient of an honorary degree from Yale.

The two new colleges are part of an expansion plan for Yale's undergraduate student body.

The title “master” for faculty members who serve as residential college leaders will be renamed to “head of college.” Some people at the university argued the title master, despite its ancient roots with the college system at Oxford and Cambridge, had a painful and unwelcome connotation of slavery.

Controversy has surrounded the name of Calhoun College for decades, but it received new attention in the fall as protesters on campuses around the country called for universities to address the legacies of historical figures, such as Woodrow Wilson at Princeton University, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Three portraits of Calhoun, a U.S. vice president and senator from South Carolina, were taken down from the walls of the residential college. The Yale Corporation, the university's governing body, had been gathering input from students on names it might consider for Calhoun College and the two new residential colleges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.