Editorial: Affirming the Wilson Legacy Review Committee's recommendations| Apr 11, 2016
Last week, the University Board of Trustees announced its approval of the recommendations made in the Wilson Legacy Committee's report. These recommendations include retaining Wilson’s name at the Woodrow Wilson School and Wilson College, revising Princeton’s unofficial motto, diversifying campus art and establishing a potential graduate school pipeline program for underrepresented groups. The Board supports the aforementioned recommendations, commends the committee’s emphasis on student involvement through the process and encourages student involvement in continued discussions about Wilson.
First, the Board commends efforts by the Committee and the University to reach out to members of the campus community for input. The Committee gathered information through a widely circulated website survey on Wilson, which received over 635 responses. It also held 11 small-group discussions on campus and considered response letters in a variety of University-affiliated publications.
The Board affirms the University’s decision to retain Wilson’s name. The Committee decided that it was appropriate not to implement a name change mostly because the “original reasons for adopting the names remain valid.” The Board supports this conclusion and believes that going forward, the University should continue to give careful consideration to all contributions and flaws of historical figures when making decisions to rename buildings. While there may be cases in the future where the shortcomings of a figure outweigh any positive contributions, renaming is not justified in this case.
The committee also recommended several new policies that the Board supports. First, the committee suggested a motto change from “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and the Service of All Nations” to “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and the Service of Humanity.” This change does justice to the full extent of Princeton's service, one that is not exclusively tied to the concept of national boundaries. A second proposal by the Committee was to establish a pipeline program for graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds. The Board encourages the University to work to make these programs more visible through improved publicity and outreach effortsso that students from underrepresented groups are informed about them and therefore have the opportunity to benefit.
Regarding the committee’s suggestion to “diversity campus art and iconography,” the Board urges the University to include more student works in an effort to diversify campus art. This would add student voices to the conversation on diversity and increase student engagement. For example, Mathey College’s Arts and Culture committee puts together presentations of student works in Café Antoine. Spaces like this would be ideal for hosting diverse student projects. Furthermore, we encourage students to participate in the ongoing discussion about the Wilson College dining hall mural. Since the decision on the mural will be made later in the semester, students still have time to voice their opinions to the Head of the College and the ad hoc student committee on the mural. In addition, we recommend that the ad hoc committee and Wilson College offer moreforumsthrough which students can participate in the conversation.
Finally, while the committee may have issued its recommendations, the Board believes that we have a responsibility as individuals to create a diverse and welcoming environment for our peers. Thus, we encourage students to engage in discussions on diversity and inclusion whenever possible. For example, an exhibit criticizing and commemorating Wilson’s legacy has been installed in the basement of Robertson Hall. Additionally, a course on his legacy, HIS 406/WWS 377, will be offered next fall. The Board urges students to visit the exhibit to gain a more complete view of Wilson and the controversy surrounding his legacy and to participate in the visitor-reaction portion of the exhibit. We also recommend that students interested in Wilson’s legacy take the course to continue learning about a truly complex historical figure.
The University’s engagement with students through this process is commendable and has produced positive changes in the campus community. The University, in its response to the committee report, has remained consistent with its mission to promote diversity and inclusivity on campus. Additionally, it has provided many opportunities for students to engage with Wilson’s legacy. Moving forward, the Board encourages the University to strengthen its commitment to these recommendations through increased outreach and publicity and urges students to engage with the proposed reform efforts and future conversations on diversity.
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.