Since the beginning of the academic year, the Princeton community has engaged in lively debate surrounding the name of the Wilson School, Princeton’s school of public and international affairs. Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, is a former president of the University, who went on to become Governor of New Jersey and the 28th President of the United States. He instituted long-lasting changes on campus, including the creation of additionalacademic departments and the precept system. However, he also left behind a troubling legacy on race relations, such as re-segregating the United States Civil Service; he also had a history of making racist statements. The Board commends students who have expressed their concerns on both sides of the issue. We recognize, however, that in the end, the Trustees of the University must decide whether to change the way the University honors Wilson’s legacy. In order for this decision to properly represent the diverse viewpoints of the Princeton community, the Board urges students to engage in discourse with the trustees and the administration through all available channels.
Wilson’s legacy regarding race relations has been under particular scrutiny on-campus over the past few months. Critics allege that Wilson’s continued prominence on campus, exemplified in the Wilson School and Wilson College, is cause for discomfort for students of color. The renaming of the Wilson School and the removal of a mural depicting Wilson were included in the demands submitted by the Black Justice League last semester. This semester, the University will be conducting a study of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. This is a process that concerns the entire campus community. The University’s decision on the naming of the Wilson School is one that must reflect the values of the University community. Therefore, the Board encourages all students to take part in the administration’s study, a complete description of which can be found at wilsonlegacy.princeton.edu.
In addition to participating in the study, the University’s Wilson Legacy website gives students the opportunity to submit their opinions directly to the Wilson Legacy Review committee and participate in in-person conversations with members of the committee. We strongly encourage students to sign up for these in-person conversations and engage directly with the Review Committee. However, the Board also calls upon the University and the Wilson Legacy Review Committee to better promote and advertise these opportunities to the student body.
Finally, the Board encourages students to participate in more student-run discussion on the topic. For example, there will be a debate on the naming of the Woodrow Wilson School at Whig Hall on February 24, hosted by theWhig-Cliosophic Society along with the Black Justice League and the Princeton Open Campus Coalition. This debate will be attended by senior administrators, including Vice President for Student Life W. Rochelle Calhoun. We encourage students and the Princeton community to come out to this event to voice their opinions and engage with the administration.
The Wilson School is a landmark institution that will forever be associated with the University. While Woodrow Wilson made great contributions to the university, no one should be above criticism. The board believes that the University should always be introspective. It is only through broad participation in the process of reviewing Woodrow Wilson’s legacy that the viewpoints of the entire Princeton community can be properly represented in any decision.
Allison Berger ’18, Theodore Furchtgott ’18 and Cydney Kim ’17 recused themselves from the writing of this editorial.
The Editorial Board is an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-In-Chief.