Princeton students protest Woodrow Wilson's presence on campus

President agrees to consider removing the name

Student protestors at Princeton University are demanding the school remove U.S. President Woodrow Wilson's name from programs and buildings because of his "racist legacy."

Protestors with the Black Justice League, a campus advocacy group, spent their second day camped inside Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber's office Thursday. The group is pushing for several reforms, including:

  • Removing President Wilson's name from all programs and buildings;
  • Creating a designated space for black students; and
  • Requiring diversity training for all faculty and staff.

As protests spread, students aim to oust leaders at other campuses

Wilson's legacy

Wilson was the 13th president of Princeton before becoming President of the United States, and Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs bears his name.

President Wilson played a crucial role in the history of U.S. foreign policy, pushing the United States to be a more active leader in the international system, among other accomplishments.

But according to many historians, Wilson was also a racist. For instance, Boston University historian William Keylor says Wilson reinstated racial segregation in the federal civil service when he took office in 1913. "Segregation is not a humiliation but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you," he reportedly said to critics at the time.

Student activists say the school should distance itself from the president, given this aspect of his character. "We demand you acknowledge the racist legacy of Woodrow Wilson and how it impacted the climate at Princeton," a student shouted at the president's office Wednesday.

Eisgruber is open to creating a named space for black students on campus but refuses to institute mandatory diversity training or remove president Wilson's name from programs or buildings, according to student activist Wilglory Tanjong. English major Destiny Crockett says Eisgruber told students, "While I do admit that Woodrow Wilson is a racist, I think you all in this room owe something to him for what he contributed to the institution."

Guidelines: Listen, don't arrest, during student protests

Several students concluded their 32-hour sit-in in President Eisgruber's office Thursday night when university leaders signed a document that commits them to conversations about taking action to address racial tension on campus and potentially removing Wilson's name from some locations (Merriman, NJ.com, 11/18; Lawler, Telegraph, 11/19; AP/ CBS New York, 11/19; U.S. Department of State, accessed 11/19; Barnett, "The Volokh Conspiracy," Washington Post, 6/25; Stack/Fisher, New York Times, 11/19).

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