Students at Princeton University protested Wednesday and demanded that the university’s president remove former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson’s name from buildings and programs at the university, pointing to his history of racism.
“Having to walk by buildings that (have Wilson’s name), having to walk by his mural, having to live in residential colleges that didn’t want our presence on campus, that’s marginalizing,” Asanni York, a black junior who is majoring in public policy, told NBC Philadelphia. “People are hurt by that. All this matters because, at the end of the day, black people’s feelings matter just as much as any other people’s feelings matter.”
While Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber told students that he agreed with them that the legacy of President Wilson had unfortunately been one of supporting segregation and other harmful policies, he insisted that it was also important to look at Wilson’s life as a whole and his broader contributions to history and society.
He pointed to the fact that Wilson was a progressive president who led the country during the First World War, among other things. Wilson was president of Princeton from 1902 to 1910, and his name appears on many programs as well as buildings throughout campus honoring his legacy.
William Keylor, professor of international relations at the Pardee School of Boston University, said of Wilson, “We should recognize that racial aspect of his behavior, of his administration and certainly not deny it or sweep it under the rug, but at the same time we have to recognize that he was a very effective reformer, domestically … and he was a champion of self-determination abroad. We have to treat him as a human being with these flaws, but also recognizing his great contributions to American history.”