Princeton University has announced plans to remove the name of former president Woodrow Wilson from its public policy school because of his segregationist views, reversing a decision the Ivy League school in Princeton, N.J., made four years ago to keep the name.
University president Christopher Eisgruber said in a letter to the school community Saturday that the board of trustees had concluded that “Wilson’s racist views and policies make him an inappropriate namesake” for Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs and the residential college.
Eisgruber said the trustees decided in April 2016 on some changes to make the university “more inclusive and more honest about its history” but decided to retain Wilson’s name, but revisited the issue in light of the recent killings of George Floyd and others.
Floyd died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes even as he pleaded for air and stopped moving.
Wilson, governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913 and then the 28th U.S. president from 1913 to 1921, supported segregation and imposed it on several federal agencies not racially divided up to that point. He also barred Black students from Princeton while serving as university president and spoke approvingly of the Ku Klux Klan.
Earlier in the week, Monmouth University of New Jersey removed Wilson’s name from one of its most prominent buildings, citing efforts to increase diversity and inclusiveness. The superintendent of the Camden school district also announced plans to rename Woodrow Wilson High School, one of the district’s two high schools.
“Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Eisgruber said.
The former president’s segregationist policies “make him an especially inappropriate namesake for a public policy school,” he said.
The trustees said they had taken what they called “this extraordinary step” because Wilson’s name was not appropriate “for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms.”
The school will now be known as the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, he said. Princeton had already planned to close Wilson College and retire its name after opening two new residential colleges currently under construction but will change the name to First College immediately.
Eisgruber said the conclusions “may seem harsh to some” since Wilson is credited with having “remade Princeton, converting it from a sleepy college into a great research university,” and he went on to become president and receive a Nobel Prize.
But while Princeton honoured Wilson despite or perhaps even in ignorance of his views, that is part of the problem, Eisgruber said.
“Princeton is part of an America that has too often disregarded, ignored, or excused racism, allowing the persistence of systems that discriminate against Black people,” he said.
Four years ago, a 10-member committee gathered input from Wilson scholars and more than 600 submissions from alumni, faculty and the public before concluding that Wilson’s accomplishments merited commemoration, so long as his faults were also candidly recognized. The committee report also said using his name “implies no endorsement of views and actions that conflict with the values and aspirations of our times.”
Thousands call for justice in death of Black man put into chokehold
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside a suburban Denver police building Saturday to call for justice in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man put into a chokehold by police last year.
McClain’s death last August has prompted a handful of small protests over the last 10 months, but his case has garnered renewed attention amid the global outcry sparked when Floyd died.
Saturday’s demonstrations in Aurora were organized by the Denver chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Denver Post reported. They began with a march and rally, which were expected to be followed by a youth-led protest and a violin vigil.
One protester, 25-year-old Franklin Williams, came to show support and make sure the fervour continues.
“This shouldn’t be a moment,” Williams said. “This should be a movement.”
Social media posts of the protests early Saturday afternoon showed crowds of people demonstrating peacefully while police forces stood by wearing tactical gear.
Some in the crowd chanted, “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”
Marchers walked behind a banner reading, “Justice for Elijah McClain, murdered by Aurora police.”
Mississippi moves to remove Confederate battle emblem from state flag
Spectators at the Mississippi Capitol broke into applause Saturday as lawmakers took a big step toward erasing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has come under intensifying criticism in recent weeks amid nationwide protests against racial injustice.
“The eyes of the state, the nation and indeed the world are on this House,” the second-ranking office in the Mississippi House, Jason White, told his colleagues.
The House and Senate voted by more than the required two-thirds majority to suspend legislative deadlines and file a bill to change the flag. That would allow debate on a bill as soon as Sunday.
Saturday’s vote was the big test, though, because of the margin. Only a simple majority is needed to pass a bill.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Saturday for the first time that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Republican-controlled legislature sends him one. He had previously said that he would not veto one — a more passive stance.
Alabama officer fired after posting image of protester in crosshairs
An Alabama police chief says one of his officers has been fired after posting a photo on social media that depicted a protester in the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
Former Officer Ryan Snow was fired Friday, Hoover police Chief Nick Derzis said.
The officer posted the image on Facebook Tuesday in response to an article about protesters at the Wendy’s restaurant in Atlanta where Rayshard Brooks was killed, AL.com reported. Protesters torched the restaurant June 13, the night after police killed Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, in the restaurant parking lot after he resisted arrest and fired a Taser while he was running away.
Snow admitted to posting the image, which also included the comment: “Exhale. Feel. Pause. Press steadily. That’s what’s next,” Derzis said.
“When I saw the post and the image, it sickened me,” Derzis said. “It certainly did not adhere to the standards expected of every officer who wears our uniform.
“This type of conduct will not be tolerated in our department and is not representative of the professionalism expected by all of our officers.”
Hoover is just south of Birmingham and home to about 86,000 residents.