Princeton University will keep Woodrow Wilson's name on its school of public and international affairs and its undergraduate residential college despite the former president's racist past, the university announced Monday.
The university had been under pressure from student protesters to remove the name of its former president because of Wilson's racist views and policies, including keeping black students from enrolling at Princeton when he headed it.
But a board of trustees committee at Princeton decided to maintain Wilson's name, while committing to work on diversity and inclusion issues, and more fully educate people about Wilson's legacy.
The 10-member trustee committee said the Ivy League university in New Jersey must be "honest and forthcoming about its history" and open "in recognizing Wilson's failings and shortcomings as well as the visions and achievements that led to the naming of the school and the college in the first place."
The committee also said the university "must openly and candidly recognize that Wilson, like other historical figures, leaves behind a complex legacy of both positive and negative repercussions, and that the use of his name implies no endorsement of views and actions that conflict with the values and aspirations of our times."
Princeton is one of a number of schools around the country facing criticism for names or titles with racist connections. The University of Pennsylvania in December changed the title of its tenured, full-time professors who live in student dorms from faculty masters to faculty directors. Princeton and Harvard also changed similar titles last year.
In addressing the Wilson controversy, the trustee committee said some of Wilson's "views and actions clearly contradict the values we hold today about fair treatment for all individuals, and our aspirations for Princeton to be a diverse, inclusive, and welcoming community."
The committee cited concern over "the position he took as Princeton's president to prevent the enrollment of black students and the policies he instituted as U.S. president that resulted in the resegregation of the federal civil service."
In its report, the committee recommended a new program be established to encourage minority students to pursue doctoral programs. It also called for new initiatives to educate people about Wilson's legacy on campus, more campus art that reflects the university's diversity and a change in Princeton's informal motto. The old motto was "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of all nations." The new one will be: "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity."
Since its formation last fall, the committee received hundreds of written opinions about Wilson and his legacy from students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the public. It also held meetings to get input.
Wilson led Princeton from 1902 to 1910 before going on to head the nation. The trustees named its school of public and international affairs after him in 1935 and later its residential college.