Former First Lady Michelle Obama, a prominent Princeton University graduate, praised her alma mater for deciding to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from a residential college and the university’s school of public and international affairs.
“Heartened to see my alma mater make this change, and even prouder of the students who’ve been advocating for this kind of change on campus for years,“ Obama wrote. “Let’s keep finding ways to be more inclusive to all students — at Princeton and at every school across the country.“
The Princeton University Board of Trustees met last week to discuss the issue and how the school could oppose racism. The trustees concluded that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college. The move is a shift from the board’s 2015 decision not to remove Wilson’s name after student activists occupied the university president’s office demanding name changes. A committee recommended various reforms to make Princeton University more inclusive and more honest about its history in 2016, but the committee and board left Wilson’s name on the school and the college at the time.
Princeton University President Chris Eisgruber said in a written statement on Saturday that the board reconsidered the matter this month as the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks drew renewed attention to the long and damaging history of racism in America.
The school will now be known as “The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.” The university had already planned to close Wilson College and retire its name after opening two new residential colleges currently under construction. Eisbruger said the university will accelerate the retirement of the name. The college will instead be known as “First College” in recognition of its status as the first of the residential colleges.
President Donald Trump also tweeted about the name change on Monday, but criticized the move.
“Can anyone believe that Princeton just dropped the name of Woodrow Wilson from their highly respected policy center,” he wrote. “Now the Do Nothing Democrats want to take off the name John Wayne from an airport. Incredible stupidity!”