As a 55-year-old white male with respect for tradition, I was alarmed to see college protests spread to Princeton with the demand that Woodrow Wilson’s name and likeness be scrubbed from the campus. Are we really going to have to rename everything? But the more I read about President Wilson’s racist history, the more I was impressed — shocked, really — by the strength of the case for removal. He used his position as leader of the country to aggressively promote and implement racist policies throughout the federal government. How can we possibly excuse or stomach this behavior? It seems utterly beside the point to discuss what good deeds he may have done as well. In aggregate, his legacy is an ugly stain on our nation and our university.
Princeton has a great tradition of educational excellence. But what good is tradition that serves to fossilize such behavior? I feel much gratitude to the student protesters who brought this issue to prominence, and I hope the administration will ultimately resolve the matter by removing the offense as requested.