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.
Corey Menafee / Facebook / Via Facebook: corey.menafee.7
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.
The June incident was not the first act of protest against the symbolism of Calhoun residential hall. 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 non-critical, 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 looked at the broken window destroyed and decided they 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.
Christopher Capozziello / Getty
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.”
Read the full police report on the incident below: