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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Renaming Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy

There's a current controversy about how much of Princeton should be named after the former president of Princeton, and president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. Most notable is the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, founded in 1930 and renamed for Wilson in 1948 (coincidentally the same year Truman issued orders to desegregate the military),

On the one hand, few historical figures are perfect -- particularly as measured by the lens of history, 100 years later. Do we want to expunge all of the people who did some good things, some bad things, from having anything named after them? Must everything in the U.S. be named after Fred Rogers? (It's doubtful he'd  have wanted that, anyway.)

On the other hand, Wilson wasn't just a racist in thought, He was a racist in action. He didn't just express racist thoughts, he did things like REsegregating the federal government. In short, he helped Jim Crow become even more entrenched as public policy.

So, what to do?  I think we take our cue from other institutions and add a name.  Carnegie Institute of Technology became Carnegie-Mellon. Dyche Stadium at Northwestern became Ryan Field (inside Dyche Stadium). National College of Education became National-Louis University.  We should add a name that honors someone who stood against some of the bad stuff Wilson stood for.

I'd nominate Harriet Tubman.


Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross c. 1822[1] – March 10, 1913) was an African-American abolitionisthumanitarian, and, during the American Civil War, a Union spy. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved family and friends,[2] using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage.
We flip a coin to decide whether it's the Wilson-Tubman School of Public Policy or the Tubman-Wilson School of Public Policy.  Either way, it adds a person who certainly tried to influence public policy in a different direction than Wilson.