SL: What are your thoughts on the naming of the new college after Pauli Murray?
TL: I was appointed after the college was named, but I am overjoyed that Yale decided to name a college after Pauli Murray. Since my appointment, I've been educating myself about Pauli Murray, who is probably, as Slate.com says, “the most important civil rights activist you do not know.” It is an incredible opportunity to serve in a college named after someone who is so much of the modern world. I want to create programming to reflect her legacy and I want her legacy to help create the community in our college.
SL: What specific programs do you have in mind for Pauli Murray College?
TL: Lots of things that are fun and have nothing to do with Pauli Murray the person, of course! But I do hope also to host programs that commemorate Pauli Murray in different ways. For instance, I’m planning events in collaboration with the in Durham, North Carolina. I also hope to commemorate her life in other ways. Pauli Murray was a lifelong dog lover - so I think it might be fun to have an open-door dog day. She was also a pastor and a deeply spiritual person. In honor of that, a Fellow of the college, a faculty member at the Divinity School who has studied Pauli Murray as a religious figure, is planning “moments of reflection” in the college. There was also a play written about Pauli Murray, and we are working on bringing that to our own little theater. One of our students has been deeply inspired by her poetry, some of which will be the first set of readings for our book club. All in all, a whole series of events that reflect her ongoing legacy.
SL: The Head plays an important role in shaping the college’s culture and identity. As Head, how do you hope to shape the college’s culture and identity?
TL: The culture and identity and the traditions will grow organically. I want to keep it open to the students and have the students make it their own. For instance, we left open the question of the mascot this spring so that our incoming first-years get to vote too.
SL: What’s on the table for mascot?
TL: Pauli Murray was a dog lover, and she named one of her dogs "Doc." He was black and white and Pauli used to joke that his real name was “Black and White We Rise Together.”.... but that’s just one idea.... I want to leave it up to the students. For various reasons I don’t quite get, some of them are pushing for a penguin!
SL: Any traditions you would like to start in the college?
TL: They’ll emerge on their own, as they do in any healthy community. As Head, I want to bring a spirit of openness. The geographic location of our college physically borders a New Haven neighborhood, so our college interfaces with both New Haven and Yale. The students are excited about that, and they want to be great neighbors. We want to embrace that and we want to embrace many cultural traditions. But here’s one idea. I look forward to hosting an open-door Seder that welcomes every member of our community. I really hope it can be a celebration of freedom and resilience.
SL: How do you view your position as Head?
TL: I hope to share myself with a little microcosm of Yale College. As Head, I really want our students to know that a 21st century Yale looks outward, looks global, and reflects and embraces what is deeply American.