Yale University is slated to relocate, not remove, a stone carving of a scowling Puritan in a top hat directly aiming a musket at a Native, according to the Associated Press. The New Haven, Connecticut, Ivy League institution called the carving “problematic” and has since covered up the gun with removable stone.
Yale President Peter Salovey said to permanently alter the carving would be “an erasure of history.”
“We cannot make alterations to works of art on our campus,” Salovey said in a statement, the AP reported. “Such alteration represents an erasure of history, which is entirely inappropriate at a university. We are obligated to allow students and others to view such images, even when they are offensive, and to study and learn from them.”
Following recent renovations, the carving, created in 1929, now sits above a prominent entrance to the Sterling Memorial Library on the university campus. The carving will be relocated to a yet-to-be-determined location on campus for public view and study, wrote Yale alumnus Mark Alden Branch in Yale Alumni Magazine.
“The university has an obligation not to hide from or destroy reminders of unpleasant history; at the same time, the university chooses the symbols and depictions that stand in places of honor,” Branch wrote. “The prominence of this carving changed when its location became a main entrance to the Center for Teaching and Learning.”
Not everyone is excited by the relocation of the controversial carving. Kyle Smith of the National Review referred to the temporary covering up of the gun and its relocation as akin to “vandalism.”
“Yale’s insistence that all of history be made to conform with current political attitudes is difficult to distinguish from vandalism,” he wrote. Smith went on to suggest that carving now perpetuates the stereotype of armed, aggressive Natives.
“Now that only one of the two men is armed, does Yale mean to imply that persons of color are irrationally violent or untrustworthy? Troubling, very troubling,” he wrote. “A reasonable interpretation of the work now is that an Indian is sneaking up on an unarmed Puritan with intent to do him harm.”
But officials at Yale say the relocation is not a decision to erase history but instead to not allow such a carving a place of prominence, “that leaving the depiction in place would have the unintended effect of giving it a place of honor that it does not deserve.”
In February, the university dropped the name of Calhoun College due to its namesake, John C. Calhoun, who was a fervent advocate for slavery.
Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith contributed to this report.