Princeton University's Board of Trustees voted on Friday to remove the name of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from one of its public policy school, after agreeing that Wilson's history of his racist worldview no longer made him an appropriate school namesake.
The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has officially been renamed the School of Public and International Affairs, Christopher L. Eisgruber, Princeton University's president, revealed on Saturday. The Board also agreed to expunge his name from one of the residential colleges at the school.
In a lengthy statement posted on the university's website on Saturday, the Board concluded that "Wilson's racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms."
Wilson--who was born in Virginia and was a descendant of Confederate soldiers--had served as president of the New Jersey institution from 1902 to 1910 before serving two terms as President from 1913 to 1921.
The removal of his name is five years in the making, following protests in November 2015 that ultimately found Wilson's history of racism, including a time when he said segregation is not humiliating but "a benefit," allowing a screening of the racist film "Birth of a Nation," while also sympathizing with the Ku Klux Klan, were no longer suitable for the school name. The timing for the renaming also comes amid intense discussion on race in America sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a Black man who died while a white police officer had placed a knee on his neck, leading to nationwide protests.
The Wilson Legacy Review committee was soon established to weigh the benefits of his legacy versus his racist views. While Wilson may have rebuilt the school into a "great research university" along with receiving a Nobel Prize for forming the defunct League of Nations, the group found that the school had looked the other way on his racist stances.
"Wilson is a different figure from, say, John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, whose fame derives from their defenses of the Confederacy and slavery (Lee was often honored for the very purpose of expressing sympathy for segregation and opposition to racial equality). Princeton honored Wilson not because of, but without regard to or perhaps even in ignorance of, his racism," said Eisgruber in a statement posted onto the website.