Princeton Says Woodrow Wilson Stays, Despite The President’s Racism

Princeton University recently announced that they will not remove the name of late President Woodrow Wilson from their buildings. This announcement came in the form a report by the Wilson Committee. The 13-page report stated that the committee talked with a number of scholars and held meetings with campus groups.

Nine scholars are listed on the committee’s website Five of the professors have authored books on Woodrow Wilson and his legacy. The committee stated that they learned through the scholars that Wilson “held racist views and took or permitted racist actions” and admitted that “Princeton has venerated him in a way that has not been forthcoming or transparent about this harmful aspect of his legacy.” NPR reported that one of the biographers stated “it’s really important not to take Wilson’s racism and put it in the category of ‘everybody was a racist’.”

The Washington Post reported that in November, students filled the office of Princeton University President Eisgruber and asked that he try to impove the racial tensions on the campus, their demands “included the removal of the Woodrow Wilson name from important buildings. Eisgruber agreed to refer the issue to the board of trustees.” One of the leading organizations in the protests was Princeton’s Black Justice League. The students also staged a 32-hour sit-in outside of Eisgruber’s office. According to CNN, during a December radio interview, current presidential candidate Ted Cruz called the students “essentially pampered teenagers…who complain that they don’t want to hear anything that they disagree with.” Cruz graduated from Princeton in 1992 with a degree in Public Policy, which means that he spent a great deal of his time in the international affairs school that is named after Woodrow Wilson.

The committee’s report states that they more than 635 comments about the issue of removing Woodrow Wilson’s name from their buildings. They took all of these comments into consideration and stated that “commenters on all sides appreciated the opportunity to participate in an informed…and overdue conversation.”

Princeton Professor Imani Perry sent out a tweet praising Princeton’s Black Justice League after the verdict.

Woodrow Wilson has an admirable legacy with the exception of his views on racial segregation. NPR reported that “before Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States, and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the League of Nations, he was the president of Princeton.” The committee’s report states that Wilson graduated from Princeton in 1879 and served as a faculty member for 12 years. They also stated that as president “he hired the first Jewish and the first Catholic faculty members.” But the report admitted the fault in his views of racial segregation, including an instance when an African-American man inquired about entering Princeton University and Wilson responded “that it is altogether inadvisable for a colored man to enter Princeton.”

The school of public and international affairs was founded in 1930, but was not named after Woodrow Wilson until 1935. The committee’s report discussed other uses of the president’s name including an award given on Alumni Day, a professorship, and a fellowship. The report recognized the racial problems on Princeton’s campus and stated that “what is needed is nothing less than a change in campus climate that elevates Princeton’s commitment to diversity and inclusion to a higher priority.”

[Featured Image: AP/Uncredited]

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