Princeton Students Demand Removal of Woodrow Wilson’s Name from Campus

In one of the latest in a string of protests on college campuses across the nation, students at Princeton University are demanding that the school remove the name of former university president and U.S. president Woodrow Wilson from campus, citing the fact that he was a racist.

Wilson, who served as president of the Ivy League college from 1902 to 1910, was a documented supporter of segregation, having been born in Georgia during the Confederacy and educated in Virginia.

Members of the Black Justice League, an African American civil rights group at Princeton, staged a 32-hour sit-in at the office of university President Christopher Eisgruber last Wednesday. They argue that Wilson’s name on campus represents an undue emotional burden on minorities, particularly African Americans.

The group’s demands include removing Wilson’s name from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and removing a plaque with Wilson’s name on it from a campus dining hall.

Eisgruber ended the sit-in by announcing he would consider removing Wilson’s name from campus; he agreed with students that Wilson was a racist and said that the issue is something the university needs to address. However, a spokesperson from the university said that Eisgruber also noted the importance of weighing Wilson’s racism with the contributions he made to the nation.

“[It’s a] conversation people are having all over campus, in part, because it’s part of the national conversation. There are no easy answers here,” Dean of the College Jill Dolan said in a statement. “It’s a conversation we all need to have about the implications of history.”

During his time as president of Princeton, Wilson curtailed the power of the school’s famed eating clubs — dining halls and social houses where most upperclassmen ate their meals, which Wilson regarded as elitist institutions; this helped lead to his election as governor of New Jersey in 1910. Two years later, he became the 28th president of the United States. As president, he brought America into World War II and helped establish the League of Nations, which gave rise to the United Nations.

While university administration has demonstrated a willingness to negotiate with students, the decision to remove Wilson’s name from campus is one that may be beyond Eisgruber’s control and would likely involve university trustees, alumni, and donors.