- The Washington Times
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Michelle Obama hailed her alma mater Princeton University on Monday after the Ivy League school decided to remove former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and residential college over his “racist thinking” and policies.

“Heartened to see my alma mater make this change, and even prouder of the students who’ve been advocating for this kind of change on campus for years,” the former first lady tweeted.

“Let’s keep finding ways to be more inclusive to all students — at Princeton and at every school across the country,” she wrote.

Princeton, where Mrs. Obama graduated from in 1985, announced Saturday that its Board of Trustees had voted to rename the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College, concluding that 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.”

University President Christopher L. Eisgruber wrote in a statement that the decision was made in response to “the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks.”

Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Mr. Eisgruber wrote. “He segregated the federal civil service after it had been racially integrated for decades, thereby taking America backward in its pursuit of justice. He not only acquiesced in but added to the persistent practice of racism in this country, a practice that continues to do harm today.

Mr. Eisgruber lamented that Princeton honored Wilson without recognizing his controversial policies, claiming the university played a part in perpetuating the systemic racism that contributed to the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man whose police custody death last month led to nationwide violence.

Wilson is a different figure from, say, John C. Calhoun or Robert E. Lee, whose fame derives from their defenses of the Confederacy and slavery (Lee was often honored for the very purpose of expressing sympathy for segregation and opposition to racial equality),” the university president wrote. “Princeton honored Wilson not because of, but without regard to or perhaps even in ignorance of, his racism.

“That, however, is ultimately the problem,” he added. “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. When Derek Chauvin knelt for nearly nine minutes on George Floyd’s neck while bystanders recorded his cruelty, he might have assumed that the system would disregard, ignore, or excuse his conduct, as it had done in response to past complaints against him.”

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs has been renamed the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College will now be known as First College. Wilson College is set to close in two years, but the university decided to rename it anyway so students would not have to “identify with the name of a racist president” during that time.

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