Princeton University will remove the name of former President Woodrow Wilson from its school of public policy and a residential college, the school announced Saturday in a statement. Wilson, who was the 28th U.S. president from 1913 to 1921, was previously the president of Princeton and the governor of New Jersey, but during his tenure denied admission to Black men and once called racial segregation "a benefit."
The Princeton University Board of Trustees voted Friday to strip Wilson's name from the public policy school and renamed it the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, according to the statement. The college will also be renamed First College in honor of its "status as the first of the residential colleges that now play an essential role in the residential life of all Princeton undergraduates," according to the statement.
The release continued that the board had taken this "extraordinary step" because Wilson's "racist thinking and policies" made him an "inappropriate namesake" for a school dedicated to "combating the scourge of racism in all its forms." It continued to denounce Wilson as "a racist who segregated the nation's civil service after it had been integrated for decades."
"Wilson's racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time," Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said in the statement. "He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today."
The university said it was the recent attention brought to the killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police that prompted the change. While Wilson's name is removed from the school's institutions, the statement said it will continue to "recognize and respect" his achievements during his time at the university, saying he improved Princeton "as much as or more than any other individual in the University's long history."
The former president's name will also remain on the Woodrow Wilson Award, the university's highest honor for an undergraduate alumnus or alumna, as it is the result of a gift and must remain with the same name. "The award explicitly honors specific and positive aspects of Wilson's career, and it, unlike the School or the College, does not require students to identify with the Wilson name in connection with their academic or residential programs," the statement said.