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Princeton to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from public affairs school

Princeton's Board of Trustees voted Friday to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs. Photo by Zane R. via Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)
Princeton's Board of Trustees voted Friday to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from its School of Public and International Affairs. Photo by Zane R. via Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

June 27 (UPI) -- Princeton's Board of Trustees has voted to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from the university's School of Public and International Affairs.

"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," said a press release issued by the university Saturday.

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The school has been known as the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs since 1948, but will now simply be called The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

The release notes that in 2015 student-led protests at the university "called attention to Wilson's racism," and the university formed an ad hoc committee to study the late U.S. president's legacy at the school.

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Traces of Wilson's legacy include not just the name of the School of Public and International Affairs but the name of a residential college, which the university intends to shutter after two new residential colleges complete construction.

On Saturday the board said the university will "accelerate retirement of the honorific naming" and call the residential college First College for the remainder of its existence.

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The board's statement also notes that Princeton's highest honor for an undergraduate alumnus or alumna bears Wilson's name. That award, according to the board of trustees, is the result of a gift and when the school accepted it, it was legally obligated to name the prize for Wilson.

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Princeton will continue to award the Woodrow Wilson Award without changing the name.

Wilson was the 28th president of the United States, serving from 1913 to 1921.

Prior to his presidency, he served as president of Princeton, from which he graduated in 1870, for eight years beginning in 1902.

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Every leadership role he held was marred by racist views, including adamant opposition to integration and statements that Princeton's "whole temper and tradition" were such that "no Negro has ever applied for admission, and it seems unlikely that the question will ever assume practical form."

"If the question before us were how to weigh Wilson's achievements against his failures, members of the Princeton community might reach varying judgments," said the board's statement. "We believe, however, that these times present the University with a different question. 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. 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."

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