While reasonable people can certainly differ as to whether the memory of Woodrow Wilson 1879 deserves to be honored as it has been until now by the University, I am disturbed by how this decision to remove his name has been made. In 2016 the University appointed a commission to study the issue at length and the Board of Trustees duly adopted its measured recommendations.
Now we are told that because of the murder of George Floyd by a presumably racist cop who will be tried for murder, everything has changed and the commission’s thoughtful work and the Board’s prior decision mean nothing. I submit that nothing has changed — there are and always will be violent racists in our midst and we must root them out. But to reverse course now and even give the appearance of surrendering to the violent woke mob is an awful precedent. We are at a crossroads — Princeton must not lose its courage and abandon the dedication to reasoned debate and academic freedom for which it has stood.
As for Wilson, his racist views and actions reflected most of the Democratic party of the time, and most Southerners. Yet he stood for the self-determination of peoples, the doctrine that ended racist colonialism. And of course his contributions to the University were enormous. Which of our historical figures will survive the purge? Obviously not Washington (a Princeton parent and holder of enslaved persons) and apparently not even Lincoln and Grant.