Despite indicating last year that Yale University wouldn't rename Calhoun College–whose namesake, John C. Calhoun, was a prominent defender of slavery–university president Peter Salovey announced on Saturday that the campus will, at long last, rename the building for Grace Hopper, a pioneer in computer science.
“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Salovey said on a call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”
Julia Adams, a sociology professor and head of the new Grace Murray Hopper College, told theWashington Post that the announcement was met with jubilation on campus.
“The minute that the announcement came out, people stuck their heads out of the window and yelled, ‘Wahoo!’" she said.
Black students have protested the college's naming after Calhoun, the nation's seventh vice president and an avowed white supremacist, since it opened in 1933. But amid a nationwide push to strip institutions of namesakes and Confederate-era symbols rooted in white supremacy and slavery–which began after nine black parishioners were gunned down during a Bible study in Charleston, SC–students again started calling for Yale to change the building's name last fall.
Hopper, who was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, was a visionary computer programmer who earned her master's and Ph.D from Yale. Although she's credited with changing the field by inventing the first "compiler"–a device that translates source code from one programming language to another–leaders in her male-dominated field spent years attacking and trying to discredit her work.
It's some consolation, however belated, that Hopper, who was often called "Amazing Grace" for the breadth of her achievements, is finally getting her due.