The decision of the Princeton Board of Trustees to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from the school after many decades is an unfortunate instance of the Board failing to exhibit some backbone in order to placate short term passions on the campus. A better model for the board is the response of the Chancellor of Oxford when confronted by Black Rhodes scholars pressing for the removal of Rhodes’ statute on the grounds that Rhodes was a racist. The Chancellor rejected the request saying, “Our history is not a blank page on which we can write our own version of what it should have been according to contemporary views. If we remove the Rhodes statute on the premise he wasn’t perfect, where would we stop?”
There is a substantial record of Wilson’s contribution to country’s domestic reforms and international peace, certainly enough to justify earlier boards naming the school after him. This board has now indulged itself in retroactive judgment-making to satisfy current fashion. I reject this form of revisionism — it will change nothing but surely disturbs the many Wilson School graduates like myself who have for years been proud of the association with Wilson and have no intention of modifying our CVs to placate current whim.