The Forum | Trusteeship

Princeton University and Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy

April 5, 2016 by Michael B. Poliakoff

Princeton University’s Board of Trustees acted judiciously in determining that erasing the name of former Princeton president and U.S. president Woodrow Wilson would not serve to “achieve meaningful changes in campus climate and culture.” Credit is also due to the student-led Princeton Open Campus Coalition for fostering reasoned dialogue among students. Shakespeare memorably observed, “The evil men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.” Student protesters—and some faculty—are quick to stand in judgment of the past in all its triumphs and failures, and they are peremptory in their demands to eradicate the memory of those who did not live up to the values to which their age gives priority. Few people, living or dead, including some progressive icons, would survive the withering gaze of a culture fueled by hunting for microaggressions and expecting trigger warnings. Princeton’s resolution to examine truthfully both the positive and the very real negative legacy of Woodrow Wilson will enlighten far more than scraping his name from its buildings.


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