School says Corey Menafee, a dishwasher in Calhoun Colleges dining hall, resigned after incident but lawyer says there was agreement to give back his job
As an employee at Yale Universitys Calhoun College, Corey Menafee was frustrated by a stained glass panel depicting slaves carrying bales of cotton in the residential colleges dining hall.
Its 2016, I shouldnt have to come to work and see things like that, Menafee told the New Haven Independent.
Last month, Menafee, who is black, used a broom to smash the glass panel. I just said, That things coming down today. Im tired of it, he told the paper. His actions restarted Yales debate over the universitys history with slavery.
Menafee was arrested by university police on 13 June and now faces a felony charge, according to the Independent. Karen N Paert, Yales deputy university press secretary and director of external communications, said shards of glass fell on to the street near a passerby, endangering her safety. Menafee made a short appearance in court on Tuesday.
Menafee had worked as a dishwasher in the schools dining hall since 2007. Paert said in an emailed statement that Menafee apologized and resigned after the incident. Paert added that the university is not seeking restitution and has requested the states attorney not press charges.
However, Menafee says that is untrue. There was an agreement for him to give back his job in exchange for not being prosecuted, said Menafees lawyer, according to the Independent.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered at the courthouse in New Haven, Connecticut, in support of Menafee. They chanted Justice for Corey Menafee, according to videos posted on Twitter by a New Haven Register reporter. They held signs calling Menafee a New Haven Hero, thanking him for taking down racist imagery, and demanding that Yale give Menafee his job back, change Calhoun Colleges name, and stop exposing workers to racism.
I didnt know I was supported this much. I didnt even realize what I did had such an impact on other people, Menafee told reporters from the courthouse steps. He called the image which he destroyed disturbing.
Bianca Brooks, a student at Columbia University, began the crowdfunding campaign with Yale student Akintunde Ahmad, who personally knows Menafee. Brooks and Ahmad, who know each other through membership in black student organizations at their respective universities, decided to raise funds for Menafee on Monday night.
Nearly $2,500 has been raised in 11 hours. The funds will be delivered by Ahmad to Menafees family later in the week, Brooks said.
Brooks, who will be a junior at Columbia in the fall, was critical of Ivy League schools and their acknowledgement of their place within racist historical institutions.
The window should have been taken down a long time ago. It shouldnt have taken someone in an emotional outrage to smash it. It should have been removed from sheer morale of the school, Brooks added.
The college was named for John C Calhoun, a Yale alumnus, former US vice-president and a proponent of slavery. In recent years, it has been the center of controversy for its namesake and for requiring students to call their deans master. Last year, the university changed the title from master to head of college but declined to change the name of the residential college.
In 2010, the Yale Daily News published a story on multiple artworks which raised concerns in the college. One was a depiction of a black man eating a watermelon, which was later removed. Another was a glass panel of Calhoun and his slaves. The panel was broken and the slaves were replaced with colored glass. Jonathan Holloway, now the dean of Yale College and a professor of African American studies, said at the time that the panel was damaged either while in storage or during the height of the black power movement.
The report said he opted not to remove the panel during renovations in 2005 and 2006. I did not want to erase history, Holloway said in the article.
Holloway could not be reached for comment. The Guardian sought comment from Paert on the Yale Daily News article and has yet to hear back.
Paert said that in April, as part of university president Peter Saloveys initiative to review Yales history with regards to slavery, the committee on art in public spaces was asked to assess windows in Calhoun and other art on campus.
The committee recommended in June that this window and some others be removed from Calhoun, conserved for future study and possible contextual exhibition, and replaced with tinted glass for the time being. An artist specializing in stained glass will be commissioned to design new windows, with input from the Yale community, including students, on what should replace them, Paert said.