Princeton University will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges, the university’s president said on Saturday — a move that comes four years after it decided to keep the name over the objections of student protests.
The university’s board of trustees found 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,” Princeton’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, said in a statement.
“Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” Mr. Eisgruber said. Wilson was the university’s president from 1902 to 1910 before becoming the U.S. president in 1913.
Wilson had overseen the resegregation of federal government offices, including the Treasury Department. In a meeting in the Oval Office with the civil rights leader Monroe Trotter, Wilson said, “Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen,” according to a transcript of the meeting.
Monmouth University in New Jersey said last week that it would remove Wilson’s name from its marquee building after administrators, professors and students said that the former president held abhorrent views on race and reinstituted segregation in the federal work force.
The decision contrasted with a vote by Princeton trustees in 2016 to keep Wilson’s name on campus buildings and programs, despite student protests that led to a review of his legacy there.
The university’s trustees said in a statement that it had questioned whether it was appropriate to name a school for “a racist who segregated the nation’s Civil Service after it had been integrated for decades.”
“The question has been made more urgent by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, which have served as tragic reminders of the ongoing need for all of us to stand against racism and for equality and justice,” the statement continued.
Students in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs sent a letter dated June 22 to the university’s administration asking for the school’s name to be changed, among a list of other demands.
Renaming the school is “the most basic step the university could have taken,” said Ally McGowen, a rising senior at the public policy school, who is black. The students behind the letter said the university had not consulted with them before its announcement on Saturday.