Princeton to keep President Wilson's name despite racist ties
NEW YORK - Princeton University will keep President Woodrow Wilson's name on campus buildings despite student complaints about racism, with officials saying on Monday that "contextualization is imperative" to the Ivy League school's history.
The New Jersey school's board of trustees said Monday it would not remove Wilson's name and image from its public spaces and from its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Wilson, the 28th U.S. president from 1913 to 1921, was a leader of the Progressive Movement but also supported racial segregation, part of public policy at the time, particularly in southern states. Wilson served as Princeton University's president from 1902 to 1910.
The trustees adopted the recommendations of a special committee formed after Princeton students demonstrated and demanded the removal of Wilson's name on campus in November, amid a wave of protests at colleges across the United States over the treatment of minority students.
The school also agreed to several new initiatives to encourage diversity on campus, from encouraging a broader range of students to pursue doctoral degrees, to displaying art and logos that reflect a more racially mixed Princeton.
Some alumni lauded Princeton for sticking with the Wilson name, condemning his views as racist by today's standards but arguing they should not overshadow his accomplishments.
"He was president of the United States and you don't erase that by the fact that he did things that today are unacceptable," said New Jersey lawyer Eric Chase, Princeton class of 1968.
The Black Justice League, which demanded Princeton scrub the Wilson name to acknowledge the racism it says the school was built on, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In retaining Wilson's name, "contextualization is imperative," the school's website cited the committee as saying Monday.
Of particular concern are "the position he took as Princeton's president to prevent the enrollment of black students and the policies he instituted as U.S. president that resulted in the re-segregation of the federal civil service," the committee said.
"Wilson, like other historical figures, leaves behind a complex legacy of both positive and negative repercussions. Use of his name implies no endorsement of views and actions that conflict with the values and aspirations of our times," the committee said.
"We have said that in this report, and the university must say it in the settings that bear his name," it said.