Yale Drops Case Against Corey Menafee, Worker Who Smashed Window Depicting Slaves

Corey Menafee, right, who broke a window depicting slaves at Yale’s Calhoun College, with his lawyer Patricia Kane, second from left. (Credit: Peter Hvizdak/New Haven Register, via Associated Press)

article by Zoe Greenburg via nytimes.com

As Yale University continues to debate the legacy of John C. Calhoun, an alumnus and leading 19thcentury politician and slaveholder for whom one of its residential colleges is named, the university said on Tuesday that it would not press charges in the case of a black dining hall worker who smashed a stained-glass panel depicting slaves carrying cotton.

The Yale police initially arrested the worker, Corey Menafee, 38, after he climbed on top of a table in the Calhoun College dining hall and smashed the window, one of several related to Calhoun and to slavery, with a broom handle.

The episode, which took place in mid-June but only recently garnered widespread attention, was first reported by The New Haven Independent.

“No employee should be subject to coming to work and seeing slave portraits on a daily basis,” Mr. Menafee told a police officer, according to the Yale Police Department’s incident report.

Mr. Menafee had worked at the university for about eight years and began working in Calhoun last December. Both of his managers told officers that he was a “very good employee.” He was charged with a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment in the second degree and a felony for criminal mischief in the first degree.

Thomas Conroy, a spokesman for Yale, said Mr. Menafee apologized and resigned after the episode. On Tuesday morning, Mr. Menafee appeared in court with Patricia Kane, a lawyer working pro bono on his behalf. Ms. Kane said he did not have a computer or a phone and could not be reached for comment.

Approximately 40 supporters, including Yale students and faculty members and community leaders, filed into the courtroom behind Mr. Menafee.

“Yale has to decide which is more valuable: a stained-glass window, or the dignity and humanity of the black people who live and work at Yale,” said Megan Fountain, an alumna and volunteer with the activist group Unidad Latina en Accion, which helped organize the rally.

Yale said in a statement on Tuesday that it had requested that the state’s attorney not press charges, and that the university would not be seeking restitution for the broken window. That request was not communicated to the prosecutor until after the court hearing, so another one was scheduled for July 26, when all charges will probably be dismissed, according to David Strollo, a supervisory assistant state’s attorney.

Yale also noted that after Mr. Menafee broke the window, a committee recommended that several windows related to slavery be removed and “conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition.”

The name of Calhoun College has long been the target of student activists, who say it celebrates a slave owner and makes minority students feel unwelcome. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, announced in April that the university would keep the college’s name, “to confront, teach and learn from the history of slavery in the United States.”

The Independent quoted Mr. Menafee as regretful. “It could be termed as civil disobedience,” he said. “But there’s always better ways of doing things like that than just destroying things. It wasn’t my property, and I had no right to do it.”

Still, Mr. Menafee’s actions seem to resonate. A GoFundMe page and a Change.org petition were circulating widely as the story spread on social media; Yale Law students wrote an open letter to Mr. Salovey. Even Mr. Menafee’s lawyer seems stirred.

“Yes, there may be other ways to express protest, but something just got to him,” Ms. Kane said. “Sometimes you just have to stand up and take action.”

3 thoughts on “Yale Drops Case Against Corey Menafee, Worker Who Smashed Window Depicting Slaves”

  1. Playing devil’s advocate. He had no right to destroy a piece of artwork about Black History. My thing is why in the hell as a vice Dean would you go in the Cafeteria and bust the window about the Black History Department. Now, I’m angry because I’m a TA in the Black History and History at UIC. The only reason why the windows was busted because you are ignorant to slavery. White people at Yale University need to discover us through art and not hate!

    1. It is Good News that Corey Menafee got the charges dropped by Calhoun Colledge the school deserves credit for mercy.
      Yet Corey, the poor man, ended up resighning his job wow he made a terrible choice. I hope his family did not need his income from Calhoun Colledge. Since the whole USA has an ugly history towards African Americans and almost all American art could be offensive to some people for some reason it is a bad choice to destroy other folks art. Also,What the man did in breaking the glass is not peaceful protest it was vandalism and a crime. Imagine decendants of Confederate Southerners doing the same thing to heroes of the north in our American Civil war. I hate vandalism it tears up communities forcing the majority to view an act of uncivil hate.

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