Yale Community Rallies Around Employee Arrested For Smashing A Window Depicting Slaves
Corey Menafee, who has no phone or computer, had no idea crowds would be cheering for him outside the courthouse.
Corey Menafee, a cafeteria worker at Yale, was arrested in June after smashing a stained glass window depicting slaves picking cotton in the dining hall where he worked.
Menafee, 38, told the New Haven Independent that he was sick of seeing the "racist and very degrading" image in Yale’s Calhoun residential college dining hall where he worked every day, so he decided to push the panel out of its frame.
“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” Menafee said. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”
Menafee was arrested June 13 and charged with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, and criminal mischief, a felony.
“I just went to the bathroom and shaved to make sure I was clean-shaven for the authorities," said Manefee, who appeared in court Tuesday.
As news of the court date surfaced Tuesday, dozens came out in support of the former Yale employee and donated to a GoFundMe page to assist the father of two "in an interim of unemployment."
Some brought up the recent accusations against Yale professor Thomas Pogge for sexually harassing his students.
Menafee, who according to his attorney has no computer or phone, was "stunned and really touched" by the crowds waiting for him outside the courthouse. "He had no idea this was happening," his attorney, Patricia Kane, told BuzzFeed News.
The June incident was not the first act of protest against the symbolism of Calhoun. The college is named after slavery advocate and former U.S. Vice President John Calhoun, which has been a point of contention since a petition was presented to the administration last summer demanding a name change. The administration denied the request in April.
Last week, the head of Calhoun College, Julia Adams, announced that many of the art, artifacts, and stained glass windows that depicted noncritical, and often somewhat celebratory, images of slavery would be removed and replaced with commissioned paintings and stained glass windows by contemporary artists.
Yale reiterated its decision in a statement regarding the Menafee incident, saying that the Committee on Art in Public Spaces had decided the windows should be replaced.
"This window and some others [will] be removed from Calhoun, conserved for future study and a possible contextual exhibition, and replaced with tinted glass for the time being," the college said. "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 also said that Menafee had apologized for his actions, resigned from his position, and that the college has requested the state not press charges — something Kane disputes.
Kane told BuzzFeed News that when she and Menafee showed up for what was supposed to be his arraignment Tuesday, they expected the court to have a copy of Yale's request to drop the charges.
But the request had not been filed, Kane said, so the court date was rescheduled.
Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy told BuzzFeed News that they "absolutely" had contacted the state prosecutor, though this may not have been mentioned in the first court date.
Kane added that Menafee had entered into a resignation agreement with Yale with the understanding that they would ask for the charges to be dropped, but that the university had not yet responded to her inquiry.
President of Yale's union of maintenance and service employees Bob Proto said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the union — Local 35 — plans to "stand with Menafee" should Yale be open to discuss reemployment at the university.
"Facing termination and worrying about providing for his family, Mr. Menafee chose to resign," the statement read. "The union stood with Mr. Menafee through this terrible ordeal, and we will stand with him again if Yale is willing to discuss a pathway for Mr. Menafee to return to a Yale University job."
Menafee told the New Haven Independent Monday that he regrets breaking the windows, despite still thinking that the images were offensive.
“It could be termed as civil disobedience,” Menafee 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.”
Kane said after the charges are dropped, she plans on trying to help Menafee get his job back and is confident that the support they saw from Yale students, employees, and local activists will help.
"People around the nation are outraged on his behalf," Kane said. "They understand how offensive this environment is."