To the Editor:
I am glad that the recent demands of the Black Justice League of Princeton have been taken seriously by University President Chris Eisgruber. A resolution has been reached that will provide the institution and the town with an excellent opportunity for discussion and action.
Princeton University is a beacon of learning, but it also has a dark history of discriminating, not just against African Americans, but also against Italian Americans, Jews and women, among other groups.
The idea that Woodrow Wilson’s name should be taken off buildings because of his poor record on civil liberties and civil rights will be explored, as it should be. Investigation and discussion of our American heroes and their feet of clay is well worthwhile. What are the criteria we should use to judge historical figures and how do we tally up the balance sheet of good deeds and bad in deciding to honor them? Is there a justification for negative actions that were “a product of their time”? How should we proceed in creating a democratic and civil society that gives everyone an equal voice and helps assuage the crimes and misdemeanors of our shared past?
These are questions begging for open discussion. All of us could benefit from cultural competency sessions. Many people would be interested in participating in a student-led discussion of freedom of speech. Socratic dialogue is what a university community is all about. If we do not listen, we cannot learn.
Scotia W. MacRae