In 2017, Yale University renamed Calhoun College (at Yale, they call dormitories “residential colleges” because … Yale) after Grace Murray Hopper, a “trailblazing computer scientist, brilliant mathematician and teacher, and dedicated public servant.” John C. Calhoun was a prominent Yale alumnus and U.S. Senator and, of course, passionate defender of slavery as a positive good.
Yale Law professor and former dean Anthony Kronman objects, explaining that, in his view:
Hitler and Stalin would have to come off buildings, but he says “less egregious” cases like Calhoun are different.
This is literally valuing the millions of white lives lost to the Holocaust and to Stalinism more highly than the millions of black lives lost to American slavery. And by “literally,” I literally mean “literally.”
Kronman accuses those who supported renaming a Yale college (that is, a dorm) — discarding the name of a prominent supporter of slavery for the name of a pioneering female scientist — of the sort of historical revisionism practiced by the Soviet Politburo.
Kronman says that colleges and universities have a responsibility to “cultivate the capacity for enduring the moral ambiguities of life.”
What in the absolute fuck is morally ambiguous about slavery? It is precisely this sort of academic arrogance that actively devalues and excludes students of color and prevents real intellectual discussion and evolution. It also requires a special sort of intellectual laziness to easily acknowledge other countries’ monsters while being unwilling to face up to our own.
I’m ashamed of my school’s former dean and proud of Prof. John Fabian Witt for his excellent point-by-point demolition of Prof. Kronman’s indefensible defense of the defense of slavery.