As if the accusations against Professor Scanlan and the dismissal of Professor Katz were not enough, now Princeton is considering the removal of John Witherspoon’s statue. Witherspoon, who was a founder and patriot, had an ambiguous position on the issue of slavery but he did own two slaves which he agreed to free at age 28. The student recommendation to replace Witherspoon’s statue with a plaque was “based on the broad principle that depictions of grandeur are inappropriate for certain spaces when the subject depicted was actively engaged in radicalized slavery.” Since George Washington owned 137 slaves at the time of his death and Thomas Jefferson owned over 600 slaves during his lifetime, it would follow that their depictions should be removed as well, both at Princeton and over the country at large.
George Will *68 noted in his recent column on Princeton and Witherspoon that this is a classic case of “judging the past through the lens of the present.” The University’s faculty and administration, in collusion with and/or cowed by radical students, have undermined the Princeton’s educational mission in the pursuit of social activism. It reminds me of the Chinese Cultural Revolution except there are no human deaths, just the death of free speech, free inquiry, and unorthodox thinking. It's very sad to witness the devolution of a once proud and vibrant institution of learning.