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Yale Keeps College Named for Slave Owner but Pulls 'Master' as Faculty Title

Yale University will scrub the title of "master" for faculty who work in the residential colleges — but it will not change the name of its college honoring John C. Calhoun, a white supremacist politician and strong proponent of slavery in the 19th century.

Image: Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut
Students walk on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. © Shannon Stapleton / Reuters / Reuters, file

University President Peter Salovey said Wednesday that keeping the name Calhoun College forces the campus to confront the nation's slave-owning past — and learn from it.

"Through teaching and learning about the most troubling aspects of our past, our community will be better prepared to challenge their legacies," Salovey said in a statement. "More than a decision about a name, we must focus on understanding the past and present, and preparing our students for the future."

The faculty, however, decided they should no longer be referred to as "masters," contending it"no longer felt it appropriate to be addressed in this way," according to the school. Those faculty members will instead be addressed as the "head of college."

Salovey added that Yale will name two new undergraduate residential colleges opening next year after Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray, a civil rights activist and the first black woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

Schools across the country have seen protests over legacies that seem to honor controversial figures. At Yale, the opposition to Calhoun — the seventh vice president of the U.S. and a South Carolina senator — reached a fever pitch after the shooting massacre last June at a historically black church in Charleston.

Princeton University on Wednesday said it would not remove President Woodrow Wilson's name from two buildings on campus, but it would take down a picture of him in a dining hall. Wilson, a graduate of the Ivy League school, has been criticized for his poor civil rights record.

Earlier this year, Harvard University announced that faculty who oversee undergraduate dorms at the school will no longer be called "House masters." The decision was made in response to concerns from the campus that the term evoked slavery.