NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Princeton University has agreed to look into the legacy of alumnus and former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson after a group of students staged a sit-in to protest his views on race and segregation.
The resolution comes after university President Christopher Eisgruber and two other school officials signed an agreement late Thursday with the Black Justice League to end the 32-hour sit-in. The university said 17 students signed the agreement.
“We appreciate the willingness of the students to work with us to find a way forward for them, for us and for our community,” Eisgruber said. “We were able to assure them that their concerns would be raised and considered through appropriate processes.”
Wilson who graduated from Princeton, was president of the school from 1902 to 1910 and served as New Jersey’s governor from 1911 to 1913, when he entered the White House. The Democrat was a leading progressive but supported segregation.
“Clearly the bone of contention is that as president, Wilson supported the segregation of the District of Columbia,” Rutgers University associate professor David Greenberg told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney.
Wilson also appointed Cabinet members who segregated federal departments.
“And that’s something, I think, for which history has judged him very harshly,” Greenberg said.
The protesters, both black and white, wanted the school to acknowledge what they called the racist legacy of Wilson and to rename the buildings and programs named for him.
Princeton is home to the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. His name is on one of the school’s residential colleges, and there is a mural of Wilson in a dining hall that protesters want removed.
But Greenberg warned that protesters shouldn’t try to censor history.
“We need to look at presidents and all figures in their totality,” he said, adding the protest should be more of a chance to learn.
“If you take it too far, we could rename everything,” Greenberg said.
The agreement said Eisgruber must email the head of the board of trustees to begin conversations about Wilson’s legacy. It also says the board will collect information on the “campus community’s” opinion, but it does not give further details.
Princeton officials also agreed to designate four rooms in the Carl A. Fields Center to be used as “Cultural Affinity Centers” as well as enhancing cultural competency training for some staff.
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