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Against anti-Black racism in the Woodrow Wilson School

Double_Sights from JRR

Walter Hood’s “Double Sights,” with Robertson Hall, which houses the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, in the background.

Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

This letter was submitted to administrators at 12:00 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 22. The text appears verbatim below.

Dear President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, Acting Dean Mark Watson, and Deans Cecilia Rouse, Miguel Centeno, Paul Lipton, and Elisabeth Donahue,


The ongoing histories of police brutality and systemic violence against Black communities have ignited recent protests nationwide and around the world to demand justice for the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Oluwatoyin Salau, and many, many others. Institutions of power in this country have condoned the deaths of far too many people for far too long, at the hands of systemic violence and inaction. Justice is long overdue.

We, writing on behalf of the majority of the recently graduated Class of 2020 in the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, are deeply troubled and angered by the School’s silence regarding the ongoing practices of racial injustice and police brutality, particularly in the context of Princeton’s preservation of Woodrow Wilson’s legacy. We are compelled to write at this moment not only because of the recent protests nationwide, which represent only the most recent expressions of institutional violence against Black, brown, and indigenous communities in the United States, but also because of Princeton’s culpability in histories of slavery and oppression. Unlike the School, Eisgruber as well as several residential colleges and academic departments, have made statements in the days and weeks after the recent instances of police brutality. If the School of Public and International Affairs is claiming to uphold its mission statement of “In Service to the Nation and Humanity,” it is imperative that the School leverage its academic, monetary, and historical influence to teach students to think critically and imaginatively; to seek solutions that have not been envisioned in the past; and to feel equipped to confront the status quo at its roots.

We feel that we have not been prepared by the School to confront the structures of race and power which undergird policy crises. We want to be clear — this call to action has been developed from experiences, conversations, and encounters with departments and courses outside of this School. Thus, as students and alumni, we demand a comprehensive transformation of the School of Public and International Affairs, beginning with a critical re-examination of its pedagogy and curriculum, programming, faculty representation, and campus iconography. Anything short of this will reinforce existing fractures in the policy frameworks which uphold institutional oppression and systemic violence. The overwhelming public support from the undersigned students in the School of Public and International Affairs demonstrates an urgent need for structural change.

The undersigned Class of 2020 stands in solidarity with the Classes of 2021 and 2022 and the larger Princeton community. We also recognize and stand in solidarity with the upcoming demands of the graduate students and alumni of Princeton’s policy school, who share our calls for justice and substantive change at the institution. We have joined together to continue the work of the Black Justice League (BJL), who called for anti-racist action in 2016. We stand with our co-signers, the following student-led organizations: the Black Student Union (BSU), Princeton African Students Association (PASA), Black Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Accountability Task Force, Princeton Association of Black Women (PABW), Princeton Black Men’s Association (PBMA) and Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), who have ignited and kept aflame student activism on campus.

Below, we lay out the following six demands, which outline our call for justice and change. They are in no way depicted hierarchically. These demands are to be taken seriously, addressed directly, and responded to by the School’s administration in their entirety by July 6, 2020.



JUNE 22, 2020

1. CORE CURRICULUM: We demand the establishment of a core requirement or a prerequisite for concentrators in the School of Public and International Affairs whose curriculum substantively examines power, race, and identity, domestically and/or globally.

The core curriculum remains woefully lacking in critical perspectives, domestically and globally. Out of the 28 courses which fulfill core requirements for the School of Public and International Affairs, only two specifically focus on race, power and identity. Only two other courses include race and power as parts of their syllabi. Additionally, through an analysis of core course syllabi, we find that every core course offered by the School of Public and International Affairs presents overwhelmingly white and male authors, prioritizing Western liberal thought and market-based economics at the expense of non-Western and more critical approaches to race, capitalism, and colonialism which have shaped our world today.

According to the School’s mission statement, which emphasizes “a global perspective and a multiplicity of voices” to confront the policy challenges presented by our world in 2020, it is incumbent upon the School of Public and International Affairs to institute such a requirement as we have proposed. Until the School is able to comprehensively develop its own curriculum that adequately meets these requirements, please see our proposed list of courses for such a requirement, which draws upon the excellent courses offered by the AAS, AMS, ASA, EAS, GSS, LAO, LAS, and SAS departments/programs.

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We demand that the School leverage its funding towards an intentional and concerted increase in programming focused on topics of race, identity, and power.

During the Fall semester of the 2019-2020 year, only two talks were hosted by the School on race and identity. This programming should consist of conversations, panels, workshops, and round-table discussions on power, race, stratification, and identity in partnership with other departments and centers on campus.

2. FACULTY AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROCEDURES: We demand the intentional hiring of more Black faculty and faculty of color in the School of Public and International Affairs, including through the joint appointment of core faculty within the AAS, AMS, ASA, EAS, GSS, LAO, LAS, and SAS departments/programs and the School of Public and International Affairs.

The School prides itself on its “particular emphasis on diverse scholarly perspectives and evidence-based analysis.” And yet, there is at present only one Black professor who teaches a course eligible to fulfill a core requirement for the School of Public and International Affairs. Furthermore, only six of 82 tenured professors appointed in the School are Black. This is unacceptable. We demand the appointment of more Black faculty and faculty of color focusing on race and power, domestically and internationally, including through the instituting of joint appointments of existing faculty in other departments on campus.

For example, several core faculty within the Department of African American Studies are renowned experts on the intersections of race and public policy. Despite this, there has yet to be a single faculty member within the School, the home of public policy on campus, who is jointly appointed in the Department of African American Studies’s core faculty. In tandem with our proposal for a revised curriculum, critical faculty perspectives will provide students with the conceptual frameworks to confront and re-imagine urgent public policy crises such as policing and mass incarceration, environmental racism, healthcare inequalities, and housing discrimination.

We demand that the School work with students to create anti-racist training at least once per semester for all faculty (including tenured professors), staff, preceptors, and administrators.

The School’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement states that the School is “committed to ensuring that all members of our diverse community feel respected, supported, and valued both inside and outside the classroom. We seek to strengthen the capacity of our students to promote equity and foster inclusion while here and in the broader world.” And yet, the presence of an overwhelmingly white faculty creates an environment where instances of racism within the classroom often go unaddressed. Thus, we demand the creation of School-wide anti-racist training which include, but are not limited to, focused discussions pertaining to classroom, pedagogical, and greater academic community action on the subjects of power, race, and identity.

We demand the development of a transparent process to examine cases of discrimination in the classroom. All students are to be made aware of this process and of other resources available and are to face no harmful repercussions for reporting.

Faculty who are reported repeatedly for discrimination in and outside of the classroom are to be reviewed by the administration for disciplinary measures including termination. These processes and resources must be made clear and accessible to students on the School’s website.  

3. SCHOLARLY RECOGNITION: We demand the instituting of an undergraduate senior thesis prize awarded annually to one or more graduating seniors whose work has “pushed the boundaries and enlarged the scope of our understanding of issues of race,” modeled after the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Toni Morrison Prize.

Too often, the work of students of color and students who push boundaries with critical scholarship concerning race in their independent work goes unrewarded in favor of work that reflects existing biases and upholds inequalities in academia. As future policymakers, we find this deeply disturbing. While we acknowledge that such a prize could never suffice to adequately reward the inestimable merits of such endeavors, we maintain that such a prize would constitute an important step in uplifting, encouraging, and highlighting imaginative student scholarship that seeks to understand and address the policy challenges presented by systemic racial injustice. As alumni, we commit to working with the School to name this prize and define its terms.

4. REPARATIONS: We demand that the School commit significant funds to an interdepartmental faculty-student research team/task force to research reparations policies and directly propose recommendations to the University for consideration and implementation.

The School’s mission statement begins with the assertion that it is dedicated to a “commitment to service in order to make a positive difference in the world.” As a school of public policy, the School is uniquely situated to assemble and fund an interdisciplinary team of scholars to take up the policy question of Princeton University’s payment of reparations to the descendants of people enslaved by the University’s presidents and donors, as well as the historically Black neighborhood of Witherspoon-Jackson destroyed by the Universities’ actions.[1] This task force will consist of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty across departments such as African American Studies and History—particularly, scholars whose work specializes in the fields of race and public policy, histories of enslaved peoples, and African American history. This task force will present its findings to the University for implementation and would constitute Princeton’s first step in addressing its complicity in histories of oppression.

5. LEGACY: We demand a public renunciation of Woodrow Wilson [Class of 1879] and the removal of his name from the School of Public and International Affairs.

Between 1930 and 1948, the name of the policy school at Princeton was simply the School of Public and International Affairs. Today, it is the only school at Princeton with a namesake: Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Architecture have no such appellation. It is therefore neither “natural” nor inevitable that the School of Public and International Affairs would be named to honor the country’s 28th president, an avowed segregationist, and a staunch defender of the Ku Klux Klan who oversaw the invasion of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,[2] the resegregation of the federal government, and the preservation of empire through the mandate system of the League of Nations,[3] an institution he helped to found in part to cement a global hierarchy based on white supremacy.[4] We reinforce the BJL’s demand to remove Wilson’s name from this School.

The University’s peer institutions are removing, renaming, and reshaping campus landmarks in efforts to take critical first steps in reflecting anti-racist stances. Most recently, on June 18th, New Jersey’s Monmouth University voted to remove Wilson’s name from one of its buildings to “foster a genuinely fair, inclusive and supportive community for all.” If the University saw fit to change the name of the School of Public and International Affairs in 1948 to reflect the politics of the midcentury United States, then it is time to change the name once again, over sixty years later, to reflect the morals and principles of our institutional identity in 2020. Our student body is a very different one than that of 1948 — we embody in our own lives a global multiplication of identities and experiences. The campus must reflect these changes. We condemn this School’s complicity in this country’s violent history of white supremacy through its perpetuation of the legacy and iconography of Woodrow Wilson.

We demand a critical intervention of “Double Sights,” beginning with the School’s funding for a recurring student-led symposium responding to the marker.

Students have spoken out time and time again. The commission of the “Double Sights” marker to address Woodrow Wilson’s complicated legacy falls profoundly short as an attempt to contend with the legacy of this white supremacist. The School’s decision to respond to racial injustice with a marker demonstrates the histories that Princeton selectively chooses to prioritize and overlook. By addressing these discussions through this commission, the administration has frozen in time the ongoing discourse on anti-racism at Princeton and the struggle for justice. To recognize that these are ongoing contentions, and that “Double Sights” represents a particular compromise made by the University at a particular time, we demand that the School financially support a recurring creative and interdisciplinary symposium which centers around “Double Sights,” Wilson’s legacy, and racism at Princeton more broadly as the first step in a critical re-examination of “Double Sights” and its implications on campus.

6. DIVESTMENT: We demand that the School of Public and International Affairs encourage the University to cut ties with the prison-industrial complex and publicly support student, faculty, Committee, and Trustee efforts towards full divestment.

Student groups on campus have called for the University to divest from private prisons and private prison affiliates, garnering support from numerous faculty. As a policy school, we should be acutely aware of how policymakers have created and perpetuated our oppressive criminal justice system.[5] We must view this moment, which so clearly reveals the fractures in our system and those whom it leaves behind, as a crucial opportunity to reimagine how policy might now be used to help rectify the crises that generations of policymakers have created.

In addition to our proposed changes to the core curriculum and School programming, we hope that this action will better enable future students and policymakers at the School of Public and International Affairs to confront the policy challenges presented by the prison-industrial complex and its related crises of policing and mass incarceration.

The undergraduate students of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs speak with one voice in solidarity with our Black classmates when we say: the time for change is now.

This letter reiterates the demands of the BJL, including the public acknowledgement of the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson and the removal of his name from the School. Their demands remain central, sustained, and ongoing. Moreover, we stand in solidarity with the School’s graduate students’ demands for University reparations and divestment. We intend to share this letter with incoming first-years, sophomores, and future generations of Princeton students to hold the School accountable through these demands in the years to come.

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing at the time of releasing this letter in June 2020. The administrators of the School of Public and International Affairs and Princeton University, to whom this letter is addressed, face tremendous pressure to decide upon an appropriate course of action for the upcoming 2020-21 school year. While this pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to the administration, the substantive changes we seek are both urgent and necessary, especially in light of the particular challenges presented by the pandemic to Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities as well as incarcerated and detained populations across the nation. The foundations of institutional and systemic violence faced by these communities have long preceded the current crises, which underscore the importance of taking action now.

We acknowledge that the demands we make will not fix these issues of systemic injustice on their own. At the very least, however, the School must invest in generating curriculum, research, and experiences to prepare future generations of policy students to confront the monumental challenges presented domestically and globally. Through this list of pedagogical reforms and calls to reckon with complicity in intergenerational racial violence, we commit to working with the administration to develop and practice a vision of intrinsic change that begins with the very foundations of this institution.

We have made these calls from our position as students with a profound desire to learn and be taught more, to think and write more deeply and critically, and to leverage the privilege of our education to understand and change the world around us for the better. We urge that future students of the School of Public and International Affairs are taught to critically approach global policy challenges and the structures which underpin them to meet a world sorely in need of remaking and reimagining.

We look forward to hearing your response and we expect, together, to begin implementing these demands by August 30, 2020, the date of Opening Exercises for the Academic Year of 2020-21. We will be making this letter public today. We await your comprehensive response addressing each of these demands by July 6, 2020 at We stand ready to answer any questions in the meantime.


The Class of 2020 with our allies in the Classes of 2021 and 2022, the graduate students in the School of Public and International Affairs, &

Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), Princeton Association of Black Women (PABW),

Princeton Black Men’s Association (PBMA), Black Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Accountability Task Force, and the Black Student Union (BSU)


Janette Lu ’20

Gabriella Pollner ’20

Ananya Agustin Malhotra ’20

Andrew Gnazzo ’20

Sirad Hassan ’20

Julia Hillenbrand ’20

Juston Forte ’20

Adam Beasley ’20

Daniel Afrifa ’20

Manny Ramirez ’20

Kade McCorvy ’20

Susan Powell ’20

Couty Fall ’20

Nate Lambert ’20

Ramzie Fathy ’20

Jona Mojados ’20

Nicole Zivkovic ’20

Dayna Valek ’20

Madison Eller ’20

Allison Harvey ’20

Eric Stinehart ’20

Alexandra Burghardt ’20

Aoife Bennett ’20

Ben Clarke ’20

Nazenin Elci ’20

Rose Arbittier ’20

Courtney O’Brien ’20

Katie Schneer ’20

Andy Zheng ’20

Sunny Sandhu ’20

Rachel Silverman ’20

Clare McKee ’20

Rose Gilbert ’20

Winnie Brandfield-Harvey ’20

David Friedman ’20

Jason Wee ’20

Laura Zecca ’20

Molly Milligan ’20

Jenny Xin ’20

Atarah McCoy ’20

Nankee Kumar ’20

Kaveh Badrei ’20

Simone Downs ’20

Kezia Otinkorang ’20

Jane Jimin Sul ’20

Philippa Marks ’20

Mabel Felix ’20

Jenna Shaw ’20

Kelcey Flowers ’20

Daniel Lee ’20

Grace Baylis ’20

Audrey Davis ’20

Kierra Laube ’20

Nathan Levit ’20

Laura Zecca ’20

Olivia LeSueur ’20

Monica Gomez ’20

Flora Lao ’20

Ilana Perkins ’20

Bozhidar Stankovikj ’20

Katherine Leung ’20

Sean McGowan ’20

Sarah Malik ’20

Haneul Ryoo ’20

Roman Horoszewski ’20

Johnny Rose ’20

Annie Cory ’20

Adrienne Mandelbaum ’20

James Proctor ’20

Jiayu (Annie) Kong ’20

Diana Sandoval Siman ’20

Nell McKenna ’20

Alex Essig ’20

Alexandra Zalewski ’20

Aleesha Ye ’20

Owen Tedford ’20

Amy Ahn ’20

Morgan Steelman ’20


Alaina McGowen '21

Nikhita Salgame '21

Morgan Carmen '21

Enver Ramadani '21

Miranda Allegar '21

Chesley Chan '21

Aparna Shankar '21

Ndidi Anekwe '21

Niko Gjaja '21

Lindsey Schmidt '21

Hannah Pouler '21

Marissa Webb '21

Kevin O'Toole '21

Tiffany Critchlow '21

MaryAnn Placheril '21

Nathalie Rodilosso '21

Shafaq Khan '21

George Baughan '21

Rachel Hazan '21

Marissa Webb '21

Annie MacDonald '21

Sydney Edwards '21

Aviva Kohn '21

Katherine Leggat-Barr '21

Madison Spinelli '21

Eric Guerci '21

Beverly Shen '21

Patrycja Pajdak '21

Grace Brightbill '21

Julia Harisay '21

Seoyoung Hong '21

Ashley Scott '21

Cy Watsky '21

Brandon Callegari '21

Mia Rosini '21

Kavya Chaturvedi '21

Dana Iverson '21

Sarah Radwan '21

Hannah Wang '21

Emily Reinhold '21

Julius Foo '21

Kelton Chastulik '21

Sydney Goldman '21

Sarah Elkordy '21

Remy Reya ‘21

Emma Parish '21

Noah Agarwal ‘21

Lucy Kloeppel ‘21

Michael Rodriguez ‘21

Ameya Hadap ‘21

Lyubomir Hadjiyski '21

Alexander Jacobson '21

Jacob Rob '21

Ethan Katz '21

Ben Clarick '21

Gordon Johnson '21

Calista Lee '21

Misha Tseitlin '21

Lutfah Subair '21

Elizabeth Parker '21

Rachel McQuigge '21

Eve Hewins '21

Tiana Graham '21

Austin Colorite '21

Maggie Baughman '21

Hollis Kuang '21

Owen Engel '21

Sullivan Hughes '21

Gabriella Tummolo '21

Owen Everett Smith '21

Melia Chittenden '21

Carlotta Platt '21

Abraham Eli Cruz '21

Sydney Johnson '21

Imane Mabrouk '21

Emily Cheston '21

Emma Ferrandino '21

Regina Lankenau '21

Karolen Eid '21

Sam Souleles '21

Haajar Alaoui '21

Abraham Waserstein '21

Mary Murphy '21

Cai Markham '21


Christopher Lugo '22

Valeria Torres-Olivares ‘22

Isra Thange '22

Hannah Baynesan '22

Eric Periman '22

Claire Silberman '22

Alissa Nalewajko '22

Eric Tran '22

Carson Maconga '22

Jenny Driscoll '22

Benjamin Gelman '22

Connor Mills '22

Jeremy Bernius '22

Ben Bograd '22

Martha Clark '22

Aneela Kanhai '22

Isabel Segel '22

Julian Coleman '22

Ryan Sung '22

Angie Sheehan '22

Christopher Leahy '22

Helen So '22

Brittani Telfair '22

Jared Harbour '22

George Triplett '22

Elle Ruggiero '22

Francesca Block '22

Millie Hernandez '22

Naomi Hess '22

Emma Moriarty '22

Ashwin Mahadevan '22

Fatima Sanogo '22

Celia Buchband '22

Marley Jacobson '22

Anne Wen '22

Adam Wickham '22

Alan Lin '22

Gus Allen '22

William Stocovaz '22

Daisy DeVore '22

Camellia Moors '22

Yana Mihova '22

Brayan Mata Madrigal '22

Nikolas Aguilar '22

Olivia Chen '22

Maya Houser '22

Jacob Barber '22

Talha Iqbal '22

Jasman Singh '22

Alex Kilander '22

Tammy Pham '22

Will Keto '22

Rhea Park '22

Abby Meyers '22

Cassidy Barnes '22

Henry Barrett '22

Emma Davis '22

Annabelle Mauri '22

Molly Gibbons '22

Uchechi Ihenacho '22

Bailey Ransom '22

Leyla Arcasoy '22

Courtney Cappelli '22

Rebecca Chelli '22

Rachel Posner '22

Oliver Effron ’22

Ashley Morales ’22

Sara Sacks ’22

Emma Bearss ’22

Turquoise Brewington ’22

Kisara Moore ’22

MacKenzie Caputo ’22

Lara Valt ’22

Jenny Wang ’22


Maya Aronoff, MPA ’22

Sagatom Saha, MPA ’20

Jennifer Johnson, MPA

Anh Ton, MPA ’20

Alejandra Moscoso, MPA

Maya Hardimon, MPA ’21

Jessica Sarriot, MPA ’18

Emily Tenenbom MPA ’21

Mark Lee, MPA

Harshita Rallabhandi, MPA ’21

Molly Brune, MPA

Yvette Ramirez, MPA

Emily Apple, MPA

Jenna Marie Saccomanno Mellor, MPA

Maura Farrell, MPA ’19

Nathan Babb, MPA

Jessica Sarriot, MPA ’18

Samuel Kanson-Benanav, MPA ’18

Jasmine Pineda, MPA ’21

Tom Taylor, MPA ’21

Riley Edwards, MPA ’21

Sujata Rajpurohit, MPA ’21

Rebecca Gorin, MPA ’21

Sugeni Perez-Sadler, MPA ’05

Ashley Semanskee, MPA ’20

Julieta Cuéllar, MPA ’21

Margaret Lyford, MPA ’16

Margo Berends, MPA ’19

Julia Herrle, MPA ’23

Francisco Díez, MPA, ’20

Samantha Adelberg, MPA ’18

[1] See Kathryn Watterson, I Hear My People Singing: Voices of African American Princeton (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017).

[2] Wilson justified intervention on the principle that “the Negro as a race, when left alone, is incapable of self-advancement” and that it was the U.S.’s duty to teach Haitians and Dominicans “how to govern themselves.” See Lorgia García-Peña, The Borders of Dominicanidad: Race, Nation, and Archives of Contradiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016), 74-75.

[3] See Susan Pedersen, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[4] “The idealism and universalism with which Wilsonism had become associated only masked what was a preservation of racial hierarchy and colonial exploitation. The League of Nations was a league of 'imperialist counter-revolution' that could be defeated only through the combination of anti-imperialist and proletarian revolution.” See Adom Getachew, “The Counterrevolutionary Moment: Preserving Racial Hierarchy in the League of Nations,” Worldmaking After Empire (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2019), 51-52.

[5] See Naomi Murakawa, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014).