Princeton keeps ‘Woodrow Wilson’ name on buildings, despite racist history
Princeton University's Board of Trustees has decided to keep Woodrow Wilson's name on a school and undergraduate college.
After protests last fall accused the former U.S. and University president of being a racist — seeking to have a mural removed and to rename buildings and programs named for Wilson — the school's trustees created a special committee and website to review the former president's legacy and history.
More than 635 comments from the campus community about Wilson were collected. Eleven meetings were also held around campus.
The committee recommended that the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and undergraduate Wilson College keep their names. The committee also said that the university also must be "honest and forthcoming about its history" and recognize "Wilson's failings and shortcomings as well as the visions and achievements that led to the naming of the school and the college in the first place," the school said in a statement Monday.
The school should realize that like many historical figures, the former university president has a "complex legacy of both positive and negative repercussions" and that Princeton's use of his name does not imply an endorsement of his views and actions, the school said.
Wilson, the 26th president of the United States, had been a president of Princeton starting in 1902. Some historians consider him among the nation’s most racist presidents for his sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan, refusal to hire blacks in his administration and segregationist views. Cabinet heads in his administration re-segregated facilities in their buildings. He told a delegation of black professionals who came to the White House to protest its policies “segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.”
Wilson's "views and actions clearly contradict the values we hold today about fair treatment for all individuals, and our aspirations for Princeton to be a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community," the committee's report said.
According to the release the committee also suggested that the university:
- Establish a new high-profile pipeline program to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue doctoral degrees
- Encourage and support a broad range of education and transparency initiatives to create a more multi-faceted understanding and representation of Wilson on campus and to focus attention on aspects of Princeton's history that have been forgotten, overlooked, subordinated, or suppressed
- Diversify campus art and iconography to reflect the diversity and inclusivity of today's Princeton
- Change Princeton's informal motto from "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of all nations" to "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity."