In rejecting the idea of taking Woodrow Wilson 1879’s name off buildings and programs, and responding instead about teaching moments (On the Campus, April 20), I think the Board of Trustees merely tried to change the subject, and that other good deeds will not make the name issue go away — nor should they. I knew about Wilson’s racism most movingly from a film one of our classmates appeared in and which many of us watched at Reunions a few years ago, but I was shocked when I learned that he had reversed the integration of the federal civil service, which had stood for decades since Reconstruction.
Though I majored in the school and used Wilson’s desk (in Professor Mason’s office), I would be a lot happier referring to it as the School of Public and International Affairs or as the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and will refer to it that way in the future.
The best way to educate people about Wilson is to stop honoring his name and actually educate people about him in books or a course that can cover both his strengths and weaknesses without the whitewash of a name on a building or program. I have spent too many years as a lawyer and academic fighting for racial justice to bring myself to speak about him as if he deserved such an honor. To put it simply, Wilson does not reflect the values of Princeton as we now know it.