The Yale Daily News reports that “chalk inscriptions and paper fliers appeared around residential colleges,” … proposing new names for the seven (out of twelve) residential colleges whose namesakes were slave owners or supporters of slavery. The group behind the campaign suggested that Maria’s and my college, Calhoun, be renamed for Frederick Douglass, and that Jonathan Edwards should now be called Titus X, after Edwards’ slave.
The chances of the Yale Corporation getting behind this are closer to none than slim, but I love the creative way these students went about getting this discussion started. So I was shocked to read this in YDN:
Judith Krauss, Master of Silliman College (which was renamed to Joseph Cinqué College, after the leader of the 1839 Amistad slave uprising) said she was not pleased about the writing. “To be honest, I find the chalking to be a mild but nonetheless annoying defacement of property, an ineffective way to call my attention to a serious topic,” she said in an e-mail Tuesday.
Are you frickin’ kidding me, Master Krauss? Annoying defacement of property! These are a couple of dozen fliers among tens of thousands on campus, plus some chalk writing that is surely already washed away in the rain currently drenching the northeast. Chalking—which is used at Swarthmore to announce dances, as well as promote causes and raise consciousness—is a brilliant form of communication, it seems to me, precisely because it’s so temporary. To object to it on any grounds shows, I suppose, that we have rotated precisely 180 degrees form the time when students invaded the president’s office and smoked his cigars, or planted bombs in the ROTC building.
That move from (at times excessive) engagement to apathy is partly why I’m heartened by the chalking at Yale. This kind of thing would be unthinkable at the University of Delaware, where the only significant student protest of the last decade came when the local police started enforcing noise ordinances.
Lizy, you mentioned that students at Vassar protested on Columbus Day. What were they protesting? Gigi, Maria, what is the state of political engagement on your campuses?