- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 27, 2020

Princeton University announced Saturday it is removing former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name from the Ivy League institution’s public policy school and residential college.

“We have taken this extraordinary step because we believe that Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms,” Princeton’s Board of Trustees said in a statement.

Princeton’s board said its members voted to change the names Friday amid calls to cut ties with Wilson, an alumnus who served as the school’s president prior to becoming the nation’s 28th in 1913.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has been renamed the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and the set-to-be-shuttered Wilson College will now be known as First College. Both buildings are located on the university’s campus in Princeton, New Jersey.

“Identifying a political leader as the namesake for a public policy school inevitably suggests that the honoree is a role model for those who study in the school,” Princeton’s board said in the statement. “We must therefore ask whether it is acceptable for this University’s school of public affairs to bear the name of a racist who segregated the nation’s civil service after it had been integrated for decades.”

Wilson, a Virginian, graduated from Princeton in 1879. He served as the school’s president and governor of New Jersey before entering the White House ahead of World War I erupting.

Elected to two terms as U.S. president, Wilson was criticized during and after his Democratic administration for pushing racist policies such as segregation of the federal government workforce. He also infamously held a screening at the White House for “Birth of a Nation,” a 1915 film glorifying the Ku Klux Klan, making it the first feature-length motion picture ever screened within the president’s residence. He is also quoted on text cards a few times in the silent film.

“Princeton is doing the right thing by firmly separating itself from the Woodrow Wilson legacy,” said Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian who has written about Wilson.

Princeton has faced heightened calls to ditch Wilson’s name since 2015, and the board said its decision was sparked in part by several recent incidents in which African Americans were killed by police officers.

“This question has been made more urgent by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, which have served as tragic reminders of the ongoing need for all of us to stand against racism and for equality and justice,” the board said. “Our commitment to those values must be clear and unequivocal. We believe that the continued use of Wilson’s name on a school of public affairs does not reflect those values and thereby impedes the School’s and the University’s capacity to pursue their missions.”

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