Many thanks to Gregg Lange ’70 for his thorough summary of Wilson’s legacy (both good and bad). Ever since the de-naming announcement a couple of months ago I’ve been wracking my brain trying to understand the decision-making process of President Eisgruber and the Trustees.
If I recall correctly, the issue of de-naming first sprung from a dialogue initiated by some Black undergraduates back in 2015. In response, the University spent time discussing, listening, planning and working to devise a feasible compromise.
I understood both the need to recognize the sensibility of my fellow Black students/alumni/faculty/staff and the need to avoid erasing history (something inherent to totalitarian regimes). Therefore, I was quite pleased with the decision to keep the name on the public affairs school while erecting a permanent monument that highlighted Wilson's troubled legacy on race relations.
In October 2019 I attended a dedication ceremony of the monument and a forum that featured Trustee Brent Henry ’69 (who led the effort on behalf of the trustees), some other administrators and the monument artist. I was so impressed that I even briefly approached Mr. Henry and congratulated him on all the hard work that went into a result that seemingly pleased all sides.
Fast forward to late spring 2020 and there is a sudden decision to de-name the public affairs school and Wilson College. I do not quibble with the ultimate decision but am completely baffled that in his public statements, President Eisgruber completely neglected to mention that the University was essentially tossing out four years of hard work and compromise. It was almost as if the period 2015-19 simply didn't exist — no committees, no surveys, no thousands of dollars spent on a very thoughtful monument, no public dedication ceremony. Moreover, I did not see any mention of the deliberative process that went into the decision.
Based on previous correspondence published in PAW, it’s clear that I am far from alone in questioning the very rapid about-face by President Eisgruber and the Trustees. A statement from them illustrating the transparency of the process (or the lack thereof) would be greatly appreciated.