A Yale University dining hall worker is out of a job after he used a broomstick to smash a stained-glass residence hall window depicting enslaved Black Americans picking cotton.
Thirty-eight-year-old Corey Menafee, who worked as a dishwasher at the university, admitted to destroying the “racist, very degrading” image on June 13, Campus Reform reports. Menafee said he was simply tired of seeing such an image.
“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” Menafee told the New Haven Independent. “It’s 2016; I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”
According to a statement from Yale’s Vice President for Communications, Eileen O’Connor, the dining hall worker’s actions resulted in “glass falling onto the street and onto a passerby, endangering [her] safety.” Menafee was later arrested and now faces a second-degree misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment and a first-degree felony charge of criminal mischief, the New Haven Independent reports.
The window Menafee destroyed was located in the university’s Calhoun College, a residence hall bearing the name of outwardly racist and self-professed slave holder John C. Calhoun. Students at the Ivy League school participated in year-round protests, demanding that university officials remove Calhoun’s name from the residence hall.
Yale University President Peter Salovey ultimately chose to retain the name of the college, because doing so would “encourage the campus community to confront the history of slavery, and to teach that history and its legacy,” Atlanta Black Star reports.
“Through teaching and learning about the most troubling aspects of our past, our community will be better prepared to challenge their legacies,” Salovey wrote in a statement. “More than a decision about a name, we must focus on understanding the past and present, and preparing our students for the future.”
While the residence hall still bears Calhoun’s controversial namesake, Menafee’s window-busting act did prompt the university to remove a set of stained-glass panels depicting moments in the statesman’s life from the residence hall’s common room, the New Haven Independent reports. An e-mail from Calhoun Head of College Julia Adams announced the removal of the panes last week, following a review by Yale’s Committee on Art in Public Spaces and recent “damage to one of the windows.”
According to the Yale Daily News, Menafee has since apologized for his actions and resigned from his position at the university.
“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.”
Spokesman for the university, Tom Conroy, said Yale has no plans to prosecute the former dining hall worker.
Menafee appeared in court Tuesday where he faced one to five years behind bars and up to $5,000 in fines if convicted of the criminal mischief charge, according to Yale Daily News. Second-degree reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to two years in prison and fines up to $1,000, the publication reports.
“I didn’t commit any acts of violence against anyone or any living thing,” Menafee said. “I didn’t be belligerent, or yell. I just broke the windows.”
Per a statement released later that evening, Yale said it was willing to work with Menafee’s union “to resolve this as compassionately as possible.” State prosecutors are scheduled to meet with lawyers for the university and Menafee and will have the final say as to whether to pursue a criminal case, the Hartford Courant reports. A new court date was set for July 26.
If possible, Menafee, who is a father of two, said he would like his job back.
According to Buzzfeed, the Yale community has since rallied in support of the ex-dining hall worker. Dozens showed up to his arraignment Tuesday and someone even launched a GoFundMe page to assist Menafee in his time of “interim of unemployment.”
“In solidarity, I partnered with Yale’s Black Men’s Union and Mr. Menafee’s lawyer Patricia Kane to start this fund,” reads the page started by Columbia University student Bianca Brooks. “All proceeds go directly to a trust Patricia Kane has set up for Menafee. Right now, he is trying to acquire a cell phone, a laptop, and Internet in order to communicate with his lawyer and the press”
So far, the fund has garnered $16,705 in donations; the ultimate goal is to raise $20,000 dollars.
— Erin Gallagher (@3r1nG) July 12, 2016
Link to Menafee’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/2dzf96s