U. committee to work on diversifing campus building names, iconography| Sep 20, 2016
The University has created the Campus Iconography Committee over the summer in order to diversify campus building names and spaces. This is part of the University's effort to fulfill the recommendations of the Wilson Legacy Review Committeeon campus diversity through art and iconography.
The committee has a total of 11 members, including three undergraduate students and one graduate student. There is also an advisory group of 10 members composed of administrators and staff. The committee will have its first meeting Sept. 27, according to Chase Hommeyer ’19, a member of the committee.
Executive Vice President Treby Williams and anthropology professor Carolyn Rouse will co-chair the committee.
The Report of the Trustee Committee on Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy at Princeton recommended diversifying campus artwork, as well as “[considering] the possibility of commissioning artwork that honors those who helped make Princeton a more diverse and inclusive place or that express the University’s aspiration to be more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming to all members of its community.”
In November 2015, students of the Black Justice League led a protest and sit-in at the office of University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83. The students urged the University to make steps toward greater inclusion for minority students through means such as a culture-specific spaces and the renaming of campus buildings and spaces currently named after former University President Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879.
“It’s something that I’m acutely aware of as I walk around campus. It presents a pretty homogenous view of a rather diverse group of students. It’s strange to talk about the statues like John Witherspoon and James McCosh which only presents a single story to the deep and intricate history of Princeton,” Monique Claiborne ’17, another member of the committee, said.
Claiborne said she hopes that greater diversity can be achieved not only through renaming buildings, but also by inviting and commissioning art from more diverse artists and subjects. She added that she hopes to use public spaces to promote more diverse artistic styles through exhibits in Frist Campus Center and art in Firestone Library, whose reading rooms have long been seen as showrooms for portraits almost exclusively of old white men.
According to University Director of Media Relations John Cramer, the University does not plan to showcase particular cultural, ethnic, racial or other groups, but the report has “called for an expanded and more vigorous commitment to diversity and inclusion to create a welcoming environment for all.”
“The objectives are in line with the recommendations outlined in the report of the special task force on diversity, equity and inclusion published in May 2015,” Cramer wrote in an emailed statement.
“When students have to navigate Princeton, it’s less about stepping into something and more about adding to its culture and community,” Claiborne said. “The way campus art is like now, it makes students feel that they have to conform to a certain guide.”
"I certainly think that it's a step in the right direction, and I am happy that the institution is acknowledging that this needs to happen to be more reflective of the diversity that we have within our campus,” Dean for Diversity and Inclusion LaTanya Buck said. “I do know that this is something that students advocated for, as well too, and in that way I'm happy to see this.”
Buck will also serve as a member of the Campus Iconography Committee.
According to Media Relations Specialist Min Pullan, the committee will be hosting a public lecture the week of Nov. 7 for campus community members.Associate News Editor Charles Min and Staff Writer Caroline Lippman contributed reporting.