Yale announced on Saturday that they will be changing the name of a residential college called Calhoun College, named after a former U.S. vice president that was a supporter of slavery.
The university is renaming Calhoun College after pioneering computer scientist and Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. Hopper, a revered mathematician, received both her masters degree and Ph.D. at Yale during the 1930’s.
University president Peter Salovey made the announcement on Saturday through an email to the Yale community.
“An extraordinary mathematician and a senior naval officer, Hopper achieved eminence in fields historically dominated by men,” Salovey wrote, the Yale Daily News reported. “Today, her principal legacy is all around us — embodied in the life-enhancing technology she knew would become commonplace. Grace Murray Hopper College thus honors her spirit of innovation and public service while looking fearlessly to the future.”
In 1931, Hopper began teaching mathematics at Vassar College, but after being there for more than a decade, she enlisted in the Navy.
Hopper was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer and invented the first compiler for a computer programming language. A programming language her team invented in the 1950’s was a predecessor to the widely-used COBOL.
Controversy over the name of the college has been ongoing. Campus protests have broken out and as recently as Friday, four people were arrested for blocking street traffic.
In April, Salovey announced that the school wouldn’t be changing the name of Calhoun College, but in August, he brought an advisory panel together to consider changing the name.
University officials said on Saturday that they would be changing the name of the college, but they won’t be removing symbols of Calhoun on campus, such as the statue atop the Harkness Tower.
We have a strong presumption against renaming buildings on this campus,” Salovey said Saturday, Associated Press reported. “I have been concerned all along and remain concerned that we don’t do things that erase history. So renamings are going to be exceptional.”
He added that the decision to change the name of the college was an exception because the values that Calhoun represented are not in line with the university’s.
“John C. Calhoun. White supremacist. Ardent defender of slavery as a positive good,” Salovey said. “Someone whose views hardened over the course of his life, died essentially criticizing the Declaration of Independence and its emphasis on all men being created equal.”