Breaking (Bad) Glass: Yale University, the City of New Haven and the Painting of Public Memory of Enslavement

Universities, Slavery, Public Memory & the Built Landscape, University of Virginia · October 2017 ·

The sound of breaking glass in what was then called Calhoun College at Yale University on June 13, 2016 signaled the death knell for that college’s name and highlighted the university’s reticence in addressing school history and its problematic relationship to the city in which it resides, which is New Haven, Connecticut.  The city provides the university with much of its service staff, who work across campus—a campus which exists as intertwined with downtown New Haven—in positions such as janitorial, food and administrative services. The sound of breaking glass at Calhoun was caused by a member of this class of worker, a 38-year old New Havener named Corey Menafee, a dishwasher who took a broom handle to one of the painted stained glass window panels in the dining hall of Calhoun College and pushed the rectangular glass out of its leaded frame, which then fell to the sidewalk below on Elm Street, where it smashed into pieces. Afterward, faced with misdemeanor and felony charges from his employer, Menafee stated, “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.” “I just said, ‘That thing’s coming down today. I’m tired of it,’” he added. “I put myself in a position to do it, and did it.”