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Yale Worker Facing Felony Charge For Breaking Stained-Glass Window Depicting Slaves

“It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

Why did Yale University have a stained-glass window depicting slaves in a cotton field ... in 2016?

A former dishwasher for the school, Corey Menafee, found himself asking the same question last month when he broke that window. Menafee is now unemployed and facing charges. 

The 38-year-old was in court Tuesday on a felony charge of criminal mischief and a misdemeanor reckless endangerment charge. He has not entered a plea, according to the New Haven Independent. 

Menafee, who is black, was arrested on June 13 after breaking the window with a broomstick.

He says he made a quid pro quo arrangement with Yale University: The school would ask the state not to pursue criminal charges if he quit. 

So Menafee resigned. The charges, however, were not dropped.

Menafee said he even signed a document spelling out the agreement, but did not have a copy of it.

After Menafee’s court appearance Tuesday, Eileen O’Connor, Yale vice president for communications, said in a statement to the Independent that “the University will not advocate that the employee be prosecuted in connection with this incident and is not seeking restitution.”

The window was located inside Calhoun College, named for former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun. Calhoun was an advocate for slavery during the 19th century, and students contested the name of the school just last year.

Menafee said he found the image on the window “racist and very degrading,” and that’s why he chose to break it.

“I took a broomstick, and it was kind of high, and I climbed up and reached up and broke it,” he told the Independent. “It’s 2016, I shouldn’t have to come to work and see things like that.”

Calhoun College is named after former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, an advocate for slavery in the 19th century. 
Calhoun College is named after former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun, an advocate for slavery in the 19th century. 

A GoFundMe account has been set up to support the father of two while he’s unemployed, as well as a petition to dismiss all charges.

“If Yale wants to do the right thing, we will help them,” said Menafee’s lawyer, Patricia Kane. “There was an agreement for him to give back his job in exchange for not being prosecuted.”

Supporters of Menafee gathered in the courtroom on Tuesday. His resignation and subsequent court appearance has ignited outrage from the campus, local community members and beyond.

Activists and judicial marshals in and outside the courthouse called for “freedom” and “justice for Corey Menafee!”

“I didn’t realize what I did had such an impact on other people,” Menafee said. 

More supporters on social media hailed Menafee as a hero.

Whether or not you think Menafee is heroic, offensive images like the one on that window should not still exist. Yale University says it plans to remove stained-glass windows depicting Calhoun before the fall semester begins.

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