A former dishwasher at Yale University who resigned after smashing a stained glass window featuring racist imagery may soon be reinstated among university staff.
Working with the union of service and maintenance employees at Yale and buoyed by support from students and the local community, 38-year-old Corey Menafee requested that the University give him his job back less than a month after he resigned—and Yale is prepared to rehire him as early as next week.
In mid-June, Menafee snapped and broke a window in the dining hall at Yale’s residential Calhoun College that featured slaves in John C. Calhoun’s cotton fields.
Menafee was “tired” of seeing the “very degrading” image every day, he told the New Haven Independent, so he shattered the window with a broomstick. Facing termination and a felony charge, Menafee agreed to resign from his job if the University dropped charges and cleared his employment record, according to his attorney Patricia Kane.
“He was pressured to resign because he had to support his family and didn’t want a bad record preventing him from finding another job,” Kane told The Daily Beast.
In a statement released Tuesday, Yale said that Menafee “will be allowed to return to a position in a different setting, starting on Monday, after serving a five-week unpaid suspension (including the time since his resignation on June 21)…We are willing to take these unusual steps given the unique circumstances of this matter, and it is now up to Mr. Menafee whether he wishes to return to Yale.”
Yet Menafee never agreed to return under conditions dictated to him by Yale.
“They’re throwing down the gauntlet and asking him to accept their [reinstatement] terms on a take it or leave it basis,” said Kane. “He has a say in this too.”
Menafee and his union representatives spoke with Yale on Monday and “stood firm on asking that the University rehire him,” according to an emailed statement from the union president. “We are now waiting on a draft agreement from Yale and will continue to stand with Mr. Menafee until he is back at work.”
If Yale refuses to consider Menafee’s conditions for returning to his job—that other windows featuring scenes from the slaveholder’s life be removed from Calhoun College immediately, for example—he still has grounds for filing a discrimination or hostile work environment claim with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, according to Kane.
“He’s an intelligent man and he knows those images should have been taken down a long time ago,” she said, stopping short of disclosing other conditions for Menafee’s reinstatement.
In early July, Head of Calhoun College Julia Adams announced in an email to the Yale community that the Calhoun dining hall was being named Roosevelt Thompson, who graduated in 1984. Adams also wrote that a “suite” of contentious window panels depicting Calhoun’s life would be removed by the time students returned to campus next semester.
Kane said images on the remaining panels included a minstrel player and “the slave quarters” in Calhoun’s house, and that the university had not specified exactly when these windows would be removed.
When asked if recent protests of police violence against the black community inspired Menafee to fight harder for his job, Kane said that he “understands the context of what’s going on nationally” and reiterated that the local community has rallied around him.
“Yes, he destroyed property, but he didn’t hurt anyone,” she added. “Those images at Yale have been the subject of controversy for thirty years. We need to remember the context in which this happened.”
Kane also reiterated that charges have not yet been dropped, despite the University’s request, and that her client is due back in court next week.
Menafee himself was not available for comment.