Princeton Responds

The cry was that Woodrow Wilson was a racist, and so his name should be removed from the wall of Princeton’s school of public and international affairs.  A committee was formed, and Princeton’s president, Chris Eisgruber ’83, just released this email:

Last fall, a trustee committee began examining how Princeton should recognize Woodrow Wilson’s legacy.  The committee convened in the wake of a student protest at Nassau Hall that called attention to Wilson’s racism.  It has now issued a report, which the Board of Trustees has approved.  The report is thorough and perceptive, guided by humane values, and candid in its recognition of this University’s failings and of the importance of making a “renewed and expanded commitment to diversity and inclusion at Princeton.” I concur fully with the committee’s analysis and recommendations, and I hope that all Princetonians will read its report and the news release about it.

I anticipated that the Princeton community would deliberate thoughtfully about Wilson’s legacy and that the Board would decide wisely.  The process surpassed my high expectations.  I want to express my appreciation to Brent Henry ’69, who chaired the special trustee committee, and to all of its members for ensuring that all Princetonians had an opportunity to register their opinions, for listening with care, and for weighing judiciously all of the considerations relevant to the issues before them.  I am also grateful to the more than 600 alumni, faculty, staff, and students who submitted online comments, and to all who participated in the open forum and the eleven in-person meetings that the trustee committee held during January and February.  Finally, I would like to thank the nine distinguished historians who contributed scholarly letters assessing Wilson’s legacy at Princeton and as president of the United States.

Last fall’s student protests and the thoughtful discussions that followed have changed how this campus will remember Woodrow Wilson and, I suspect, how our country will remember him as well.  Over the past few months, many Princetonians remarked to me that they had little knowledge of Wilson’s racism.  I count myself among those who have learned from this process.  I now have a deeper appreciation for Wilson’s failings and for what those failings have meant to this country and our campus.  While I continue to admire Wilson’s many genuine accomplishments, I recognize the need to describe him in a way that is more balanced, and more faithful to history, than this University and I have previously done.

The trustee committee’s report emphasizes, and I agree wholeheartedly, that our most significant and enduring challenges pertain to enhancing the diversity and inclusivity of our community.  Princeton’s educational and research mission requires that we attract, welcome, and embrace talented individuals from every background and sector of society.  We must strive energetically and imaginatively to make this campus a place where all of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni can feel fully at home.

The trustee report makes several specific recommendations to help us achieve these goals.  My colleagues and I will begin implementing them immediately, along with other initiatives already underway.  Inclusivity is an important priority for Princeton and for me personally, and it will remain so throughout my time as this University’s president.

The issues facing Princeton reflect the particulars of its history and culture, but they have analogues on other campuses, and indeed in the country and the world more broadly.  The quest to achieve genuine equality and inclusivity is one of our society’s greatest and most profound challenges.  I am confident that Princeton can be a leader in meeting that challenge, and I look forward to working with all of you to do so.

Christopher Eisgruber ’83

TL;dr: They’re keeping the name.

16 thoughts on “Princeton Responds

  1. John Barleycorn

    Nobody gets to mess with taxes and monetary policy? No fair…

    But if we can get around to splitting both tickets and have a fourway this year there is a slight chance that an, as of yet undiscovered, asteroid will make math cool and put political science back in the box while making Woodrow a household name again.

    Stranger things have happened.

    We will still need lawyers but that too will change when the artificial intelligence conundrum brings about a sixway in 2028 and mescaline is rescheduled.

    Meanwhile the top hat probably won’t be coming back until 2038 but some things are worth the wait.

    P.S. Beware the parlementary tribalism push that should be getting underway shortly. It will only make fresh water more expensive even where it is plentiful and make bath a four letter word.

  2. PDB

    So many words to say so little. I wonder if Eisgruber was hoping that, since the statement was too long for a Twitter or Facebook post, all the protesters would give up reading on it before they reached the end.

    1. SHG Post author

      I suspect that’s exactly what he was hoping for. Short attention span and all, they would get bored long before they realized they weren’t changing the name.

  3. Richard G. Kopf

    I can’t wait for 75 years to pass. What will happen the to the new (old) Scalia law school name?

    All the best.


  4. JD

    The Corporate-speak gibberish generator website makes almost as much sense, but its a lot more fun to play with. They do need to develop a law themed one, but it serves the purpose.

    [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

    “We here at Woodrow Wilson Committee believe we know that it is better to morph robustly than to harness virally. If all of this sounds discombobulating to you, that’s because it is! We apply the proverb “Birds of a feather flock together” not only to our solutions but our capacity to productize. A company that can transform elegantly will (at some point) be able to visualize correctly. Do you have a scheme to become short-term? Do you have a game plan to become synergistic? The implementation factor is vertical. We apply the proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” not only to our networks but our ability to recontextualize. …”

    1. JD

      Sorry for breaking the rule against links. I also broke the rule against perpetuities on a different blog, so I’m just a rebel.

      My post loses something without the link. I feel like my voice isn’t being heard, nor have you validated my feelings.

      Can I get a tummy rub?

  5. Christopher Best

    Do people really use their graduation year as some sort of Honorary or title? Is this just an ivy league thing?

    I honestly couldn’t tell you without looking it up what year I graduated. I had more important things going on. Sometimes I think I want to go back to teaching, but then crap like this reminds me of the parts of academia I hated…

    1. Jim Ryan

      Some of us are confused as to our graduation year. Personally I was on the decelerated plan and managed to squeeze 4 years into 5.

    2. PDB

      To be fair, I’ve seen class years inserted for people in official communications from many universities, not just the Ivies. And it’s usually the school’s PR department that adds those before a statement is released, rather than the person making the statement.

    3. Bruce Godfrey

      It’s a shorthand accepted certainly in the Ivy League and elsewhere to refer to alumnus status and year. At Princeton, an asterisk rather than apostrophe notes graduate alumni, and “P” refers to parents of an alum.

      House rules here at SJ prohibit links and house rules merit respect, but a quick search of Ohio State University’s alumni communications website shows the same use.

      1. Christopher Best

        So, either the podunkness of my alma mater is reflected in our lack of sophistication… Or I never actually read anything the alumni association sends me.

      2. Noel Erinjeri

        ” a quick search of Ohio State University’s alumni communications website shows the same use.”

        That’s not graduation year, that’s IQ.

        Sorry….that was a big, fat meatball right over the plate, and the ghosts of Bo and Fielding Yost would have haunted me if I’d let it go by.

Comments are closed.