Princeton is under renewed pressure to rename an institution honoring President Woodrow Wilson after activists branded him a “white supremacist”.
Campus activists made another attempt to scrub Wilson’s name from the university’s School of Public and International Affairs (pictured above) over his views on race.
They attempted to re-open the case, part of a large-scale campus protest in 2015, after Yale this week changed the name of a college named after slave owner and benefactor John C. Calhoun.
In a renewed attack on the Wilson school, activists claimed that the 28th US President, in power from 1913-1921, was one of the “White supremacists who paved the way for Trump”, according to a letter seen by The Princeton Tab.
The activists said it would be hypocrisy for Princeton to publicly oppose Trump – as it did over his immigration order – while continuing to associate itself with Wilson.
Although Wilson is widely celebrated for his leadership of the US during the First World War, his enthusiasm for international cooperation and his broadly progressive bent, his racism while in office was undeniable.
He agreed to re-segregate large parts of the federal government, expressed sympathy for the Ku Klux Klan and regularly worked to exclude or dissuade black people from public life.
As a Vox explainer notes, although the 1910s had very different racial norms to today, Wilson’s attitude was exceptional even then.
However, despite the pressure, Princeton said that the name of Wilson’s school – and Wilson Hall, a residential complex – will remain unchanged.
A statement to The Tab said: “The question of Wilson’s legacy has been fully addressed by the trustees and will not be reopened.
“Princeton is committed to acknowledging and discussing Wilson’s legacy, including through an exhibition that has been traveling from location to location on campus.
“A committee to establish a marker at the Woodrow Wilson School that educates the campus community and others about Wilson’s ‘positive and negative dimensions’ launched a website last month to seek input from Princeton students, alumni, faculty and staff.
“Other committees are working to diversify campus iconography and to suggest names for campus spaces – beginning with the atrium at the Wilson School and West College – that express the University’s enhanced commitment to diversity and inclusion.”