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, which was 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.
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,” the committee said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bernadette Baum)