As the Yale Corporation continues to deliberate campus naming issues, Harvard and Princeton have resolved theirs.
Naming controversies have again dominated campus discussions at Yale’s peer universities this semester, as Harvard and Princeton recently took opposite actions in response to student activists’ demands to replace or rename racially fraught symbols on campus. The Yale Corporation, however, has stayed silent on the potential renaming of Calhoun College and the title of residential college master.
On April 4, Princeton’s Board of Trustees announced its decision to retain the names of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College despite student activists’ calls to rename the program and building, citing Wilson’s racist views. Last month, the Harvard Corporation accepted the proposal of a committee composed of law school community members to remove and replace the law school’s seal, which formerly featured the crest of an 18th-century slaveholding family that endowed the first law professorship at the university.
Noting the passion associated with naming issues, University President Peter Salovey said he appreciates the attention each university gave these debates.
“They have clearly acted on the basis of principles,” Salovey said. “I appreciate very much the thoughtfulness of both the Harvard and Princeton leadership in the way they have communicated their decisions to the larger community.”
These decisions have further shed light on how different universities are handling the aftermath of widespread race-related student activism in the fall. The Yale Corporation, which meets five times per year and is currently deliberating naming issues as well, has yet to make any official announcements, despite movement amongst its peers. At both Harvard and Princeton, special committees were formed to examine and form recommendations on the naming issues. Yale has yet to take a similar action.
The Princeton committee recommended that while the university “needs to be honest and forthcoming about its history,” it should retain the references to Wilson — a former university president — in both its international affairs program and college. The committee also wrote that the Board of Trustees should strongly reaffirm the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The board accepted its recommendations on Monday.
“Last fall’s student protests and the thoughtful discussions that followed have changed how this campus will remember Woodrow Wilson and, I suspect, how our country will remember him as well,” wrote Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber in a public statement. “Over the past few months, many Princetonians remarked to me that they had little knowledge of Wilson’s racism. I count myself among those who have learned from this process.”
A Princeton sophomore who asked to remain anonymous said the Black Justice League largely expected the Board of Trustees’ decision.
“There hasn’t been much done or said on campus,” the student said.