About two dozen students from the Black Justice League slept in Princeton University President Chris Eisgruber’s office on Wednesday night, vowing to remain at Nassau Hall until he signs a list of demands that includes the promise to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from campus buildings because of Wilson’s racist views.
Another four dozen students set up tents and camped outside of Nassau Hall overnight to show their solidarity with their classmates.
The Rev. William Barber, a civil rights activist in North Carolina who spoke at the school Wednesday, visited the students Wednesday night. Ruth Simmons, the first black president of an ivy league university as well as the first black provost at Princeton, also spoke with the students later in the evening.
When the doors to Nassau Hall were reopened Thursday morning, about 100 students flooded in and sat down on the floor in the atrium of the building as a guard sat in front of the entrance to the corridor that leads to Eisgruber’s office.
Cornel West spoke to the students in Eisgruber’s office via phone, the University Press Club reported.
Students eagerly awaited a statement from Eisgruber of the school’s board of trustees, but so far no formal statement has been issued. The Princeton University Press Club reported that the trustees are schedule to be on campus today, and that some may meet with the students.
The student group called the Black Justice League has demanded that the school rename all buildings named after Wilson, and the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs. They also want a Wilson mural removed from the Wilcox Dining Hall. Seeing the name honored on campus makes black students feel like second-class citizens, students said.
Students demand that the school hold cultural competency training sessions for faculty and staff. The students want classes on the history of marginalized peoples be added to distribution requirements in order for a student to graduate.
Students also want the school to provide a dedicated space on campus for black students that is clearly marked. The students want to be able to name the space themselves.
Eisgruber yesterday declined to sign on to the list of demands, though he said he sympathized with the students’ concerns and acknowledged that Wilson was a racist.