The Case for Canceling “Yale,” and Renaming it “Dummer University”

(p. A5) I see that #CancelYale is trending on Twitter and elsewhere in social media. It’s a development I’d like to encourage—not, to be frank, because I think that canceling things is a good idea. Quite the opposite. But if the Left is going to pursue its dream of destroying every reminder of our past it doesn’t like, and if woke institutions like Yale, bloated with too much money and far too much self-regard, are going to betray their raison d’être and join in the effort to control the present by destroying the past, then I think an example should be made of corrupt institutions like Yale and craven leaders like Peter Salovey, the university’s president.

Besides, if the Left can deface or destroy statues of George Washington, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Jefferson, and countless others, shouldn’t we insist that they live up to their own ideals and cancel racially tainted liberal institutions like Yale?

A few years ago, Yale, in a fit of woke panic, decided to change the name of Calhoun College—named for John C. Calhoun, Yale graduate and valedictorian—because his position on slavery was not consonant with the position today advocated by Yale.

. . .

President Salovey’s letter announcing that Calhoun College would be renamed argues that “unlike . . . Elihu Yale, who made a gift that supported the founding of our university, . . . Calhoun has no similarly strong association with our campus.” What can that mean? Calhoun graduated valedictorian from Yale College in 1804. Is that not a “strong association”? . . .

As far as I have been able to determine, Elihu Yale never set foot in New Haven. His benefaction of some books and goods worth £800 helped found Yale College, not Yale University. And whereas the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica praises Calhoun for his “just and kind” treatment of slaves and the “stainless integrity” of his character, Elihu Yale had slaves flogged, hanged a stable boy for stealing a horse, and was eventually removed from his post in India for corruption. In Calhoun’s day, although one could own slaves, participating in the international slave trade was a capital crime. Yale, as an administrator in India, was deeply involved in the slave trade. He always made sure that ships leaving his jurisdiction for Europe carried at least 10 slaves. Is all that not “fundamentally at odds” with the mission of Peter Salovey’s Yale?

. . .

But if the institution currently known as Yale wants to capitalize on its colonial origins, how about naming the university a%er Jeremiah Dummer, the Harvard chap who induced Elihu Yale to make his benefaction in the first place. Shouldn’t he, and not the slaver Yale, have the honor of having a (once) great university named after him? To ask the question is to answer it.

By all means, cancel Yale. Remove the horrid name from clothing and other merchandise. But replace it with a more honorable name: Dummer. Dummer University. The Dummer School of Law. The Dummer School of Art. A Dummer degree.

For the full commentary, see:

Kimball, Roger. “Rename Yale Now.” The New York Times (Thursday, July 2, 2020): A5.

(Note: ellipses internal to paragraphs, in original; other ellipses, added.)

(Note: Roger Kimball’s commentary appeared as a full-page ad sponsored by the Center for American Greatness. I have searched for the ad on nytimes.com and did not find it. )

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