Princeton University will remove former President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and a residential college, the school’s president announced Saturday.
Christopher Eisgruber announced the institution’s decision in a statement published on the school’s website. He cited Wilson’s “racist views and policies” as the main factor in the decision.
“The trustees conclude that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must firmly stand against racism in all its forms,” the statement read.
The trustees voted Friday to remove the name of the public policy school, which will hence be known as The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, while the college will simply be called First College.
The Wilson College was set to close in two years following the construction of two new residential colleges, but Eisgruber did not want to make students “identify with the name of a racist president” during that time.
Protests over the New Jersey Ivy League school’s name have been ongoing since 2015 when students occupied the president’s office and demanded Wilson’s name be removed from Princeton buildings. The university responded by forming a committee to study Wilson’s legacy at the school.
While the committee initially recommended a number of reforms, the names were left on the buildings. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death on May 25, as well as in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality that followed, Princeton’s trustees agreed to revisit the matter.
“Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored, or excused racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against Black people,” the statement continued. “When Derek Chauvin knelt for nearly nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck while bystanders recorded his cruelty, he might have assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct, as it had done in response to past complaints against him.”
The trustees cited Wilson’s “segregationist policies,” by which he segregated multiple federal agencies and his Cabinet after decades of integration following Reconstruction. The New York Times noted that while Wilson may not have led the segregationist efforts, he “doubled down” when challenged on the topic and rationalized segregation as a “strategy to keep racial peace.”
Wilson also blocked a Japanese proposal to include racial equality as a founding principle to the League of Nations, Politico has reported.
Monmouth University took a similar step earlier this month by removing Wilson’s name from its main campus building. Wilson Hall will be renamed The Great Hall at Shadow Lawn and refitted as a community space, with the goal of making it “more inviting to students,” the New Jersey university said.
The name change has already drawn criticism from alumni.
A prominent Princeton alum reached out to Fox News, saying: “Chris Eisgruber had until now been a rare academic leader willing to stand up against the woke leftist mobs overrunning America’s college campuses. In the minds of many, his name was synonymous with academic freedom and rigor.”
“Now he’s just another campus coward, too terrified of the mob to make rational decisions. I’m furious about this, even though Woodrow Wilson was a terrible human being.”
The trustees acknowledged that the decision to change the names might seem “harsh,” but remain committed to preserving Wilson’s record “in all of its considerable complexity,” they said.