Princeton Alums Laud School's Removal of Woodrow Wilson's Name

Princeton University officials voted Friday to change the name of Wilson College due to former President Woodrow Wilson's "racist thinking and policies," according to a statement by university president Christopher Eisgruber Saturday -- a move that was welcomed by alums on social media.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College will now be known as The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and First College, respectively.

"The trustees concluded that Woodrow Wilson's racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms," Esigruber said in his statement.

The Board of Trustees for the university released a statement on their vote to make the name changes Friday, citing that students called for a name change back in 2015.

"Student protests at Princeton in November 2015 called attention to Wilson's racism, and we responded by forming an ad hoc committee," the board said. "The committee recommended valuable reforms to increase Princeton's inclusivity and recount the University's history more completely, but it left the names of the School and College intact. Student and alumni interest in those names has persisted, and we revisited them this month as the American nation struggled profoundly with the terrible injustice of racism."

A spokesperson for Princeton told Newsweek the decision to enact a name change was "fully endorsed" by the Board.

Briana Ruiz Christophers, a Princeton alum, said in a tweet she was in "shock" from news of the name change today, since the Black Justice League, a student organization, demanded the name be changed five years ago.

I am in shock as an alum. The Black Justice League students have been calling for this since '15, threatened w disciplinary action incl suspension/expulsion, gaslit by events/committees/Trustees report. Students put themselves on the line, @Princeton doesnt get the credit here. https://t.co/sN1kCMbcE3

— Briana Ruíz Christophers (@BriChristophers) June 27, 2020

"I am in shock as an alum. The Black Justice League students have been calling for this since '15, threatened [with] disciplinary action [including] suspension/expulsion, gaslit by events/committees/Trustees report. Students put themselves on the line, Princeton doesn't get the credit here," Christophers wrote.

Oscar Bettison, another Princeton alum, was also critical of the university for only now acting to rename the school, five years after students protested in favor of the name change: "As a [Graduate] alum, I think this is good, but the university should have done the right thing in 2015 when it wasn't so politically expedient. After all, Wilson was considered a racist by the standards of his time."

As a Grad alum, I think this is good, but the University should have done the right thing in 2015 when it wasn't so politically expedient. After all, Wilson was considered a racist by the standards of his time. https://t.co/tfflGfZvz1

— Oscar Bettison (@OscarBettison) June 27, 2020

Tao Leigh Goffe, a former faculty member at Princeton who currently teaches Africana Studies at Cornell University, said in a tweet that she approved of the change back in 2015 and quoted a New York Time article from her time at Princeton that called Wilson "an unapologetic racist."

"[Woodrow Wilson] was an unapologetic racist whose administration rolled back the gains that African-Americans achieved just after the Civil War, purged black workers from influential jobs and transformed the government into an instrument of white supremacy." @nytimes

— Prof. Goffe | 道 | (@taoleighgoffe) June 27, 2020

"[Woodrow Wilson] was an unapologetic racist whose administration rolled back the gains that African-Americans achieved just after the Civil War, purged black workers from influential jobs and transformed the government into an instrument of white supremacy," Goffe tweeted, quoting from the 2015 New York Times article.

Princeton alum Christina Henderson called the name change a "victory" that came thanks to the efforts of the Black Justice League in 2015 and in the years that followed.

"[The Black Justice League] sparked the debate. They created an atmosphere on campus for change. And when the university rejected this central demand in April '16, they didn't relent. Current undergrad, graduate students and alumni joined and continued their fight," Henderson said.

People said Princeton would never do it. Folks dismissed the protests. Well, change has come.

Shout out to the Black Justice League, a student org! This victory is because of them.

Now, let me go change my bio. ✊🏿

— Christina Henderson (@chenderson) June 27, 2020

"People said Princeton would never do it. Folks dismissed the protests. Well, change has come. Shout out to the Black Justice League, a student org! This victory is because of them" Henderson said.

Historian and professor Dr. Keisha N. Blain wrote: "As a #Princeton alumna, I am THRILLED about this decision. Took a very long time but better late than never. Kudos to the courageous faculty, students, and staff at #Princeton (and beyond) who have been fighting for this for a very long time! #race #racism #history@Princeton."

As a #Princeton alumna, I am THRILLED about this decision. Took a very long time but better late than never. Kudos to the courageous faculty, students, and staff at #Princeton (and beyond) who have been fighting for this for a very long time! #race #racism #history @Princeton https://t.co/8CzkSYCAdn

— Dr. Keisha N. Blain (@KeishaBlain) June 27, 2020

Monica Huerta, a professor of English at Princeton, showed gratitude in a tweet to "all the students who have been pushing, to all the people who put in all the work, [and] to the leadership for moving forward."

it is officially now and forever The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs!!!!!!! !

a huge, huge thank you and wow to all the students who have been pushing, to all the people who put in all the work, to the leadership for moving forward 🐯 #princeton #tigerstuff

— monica huerta (@drmonicahuerta) June 27, 2020

There are hundreds of current Princeton students who would like to see the school do more. In an open letter published Tuesday, over 400 students and alumni signed a list of demands calling for the school to pay reparations to slave descendants, of slaves owned by formed Princeton presidents, abolish the Princeton Police Department, and increase black faculty.

"We believe that an institution that firstly focuses on the needs, aspirations, and identities of Black students and faculty is one that elevates all of us...Black Lives Matter. And it's time this School did something concrete to prove it," the letter stated.

President Woodrow Wilson
President Woodrow Wilson circa 1916. The former president's name was removed from The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College at Princeton University. Tony Essex / Hulton Archive/Getty