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Citing racist beliefs, Princeton strips Woodrow Wilson's name from public policy school

He was an 'inappropriate namesake' for the school, the trustees said.

Updated: June 27, 2020 - 2:04pm

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Princeton University's Board of Trustees announced Saturday that it has voted to strip the Ivy League university's public policy school of its moniker honoring Woodrow Wilson, claiming the former Democratic president's racist ideology made him ill-suited as a namesake for the institution. 

Wilson's "racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms," the trustees said in a statement on Friday. 

Wilson, a progressive Democrat known for his contempt of the U.S. Constitution due to the limits it imposed on the federal government, was a proponent of segregation and allowed much of the federal government's workings to become racially segregated during his two terms between 1913-1921. Under his executive tenure, the first movie ever screened at the White House was the pro-Ku Klux Klan film "The Birth of a Nation." 

Though the board stripped Wilson's name from the highly regarded policy school, the trustees nevertheless argued that "Princeton has a continuing responsibility to remember [Wilson's] achievements even as we honestly and publicly contend with his failures."

The trustees also said they would rename the school's residential Wilson College to "First College" ahead of that residence's already-scheduled closure in two years. 

A university honor bearing the president's name – the Woodrow Wilson Award – will remain unchanged, the trustees added, due to that award's being associated with a gift to the university.

"The award explicitly honors specific and positive aspects of Wilson’s career," the trustees wrote, "and it, unlike the School or the College, does not require students to identify with the Wilson name in connection with their academic or residential programs."

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