A Yale University employee was tired of seeing images of slaves on the Calhoun College windows each day, and decided to do something about it.
The African-American dining hall general service assistant shattered the stained glass windows with a broomstick on June 13. He was arrested and resigned from his job.
“I try to work and help people as hard as I can, and then you look up and see an image of slaves, it’s the 21st century. I shouldn’t have to see that,” Corey Menafee told reporters Tuesday outside the New Haven courthouse.
Menafee, 38, was charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment in the second degree and felony criminal mischief in the first degree, according to New Haven Superior Court documents.
But Yale has requested the charges against Menafee be dropped, according to Patricia Kane, Menafee’s pro bono attorney. This is in exchange for his resignation. Kane said Menafee will lose his health benefits at the end of the month.
Prosecutors could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Menafee was sitting outside the New Haven Public Defender’s Office on Tuesday when Kane approached him and offered her services. Menafee accepted, grateful. When the pair later entered the courtroom, they were shocked to find rows of supporters who had come to protest Menafee’s charges, he said.
“That was a real surprise. I had no idea when I had got up that morning, even Patricia, I didn’t know she was going to be there. I had no idea people were going to be there and a media frenzy,” Menafee said.
Menafee said he regrets his actions, and said he wouldn’t do it again.
“I had no right to do what I did. I had no right to destroy Yale’s property,” Menafee said. “My actions were juvenile. However, I just wanted to stop looking at that image.”
Menafee, who graduated in 2001 from Virginia Union University with a mass communications degree, loved working at Yale, calling it “the best university in the world hands down.” He said he hopes that with Kane’s help he can one day return to work there. According to Kane, Yale legal counsel is open to the possibility.
Menafee’s actions, however, might not have been in vain.
“After the window was broken in June, the Committee (on Art in Public Spaces) recommended that it and some other windows be removed from Calhoun, conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition, and replaced temporarily with tinted glass. 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,” Yale spokesperson Karen Peart said in a statement.
Menafee isn’t the first person at Yale to take issue with the stained glass windows and Calhoun College, named after the nation’s seventh vice president, John C. Calhoun, who advocated slavery.
Yale undergrads and alumni have protested the name of Calhoun College. In April, Yale University President Peter Salovey defended his decision to keep the hall’s name despite the controversy:
“After a careful review of student and alumni responses, scholarly views and public commentary — which were exceptionally thoughtful, measured, and helpful on all aspects of the question — it became evident that renaming could have the opposite effect of the one intended. Removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it.”
As part of Salovey’s initiative in April to review Yale’s history with regard to slavery, the Committee on Art in Public Spaces was charged to assess all the art on campus, including the windows in Calhoun.
Menafee is due back in court on July 26.