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Princeton University Agrees to Weigh Erasing Woodrow Wilson's Name

by Richie Duchon /  / Updated 
IMAGE: Princeton protest
Students gather inside Nassau Hall during a sit-in, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Princeton, N.J. The protesters from a group called the Black Justice League staged a sit-in inside university President Christopher Eisgruber's office on Tuesday, demanding the school remove the name of former school president and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson from programs and buildings over what they said was his racist legacy. Julio Cortez / AP

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Princeton University’s president, under pressure from African American student activists, said Thursday night that the school would begin a process to consider expunging the legacy of former President Woodrow Wilson from campus.

The agreement — signed by Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber — ended a 32-hour sit-in at the president’s office.

Students with the Black Justice League entered Nassau Hall around noon Wednesday, calling for the Ivy League university to acknowledge racism within Wilson’s legacy and take actions to improve cultural sensitivity on campus.

The agreement comes as black students across the country have been rallying for improved race relations on college campuses, including a national day of protest Wednesday under the hashtag #StudentBlackOut.

Wilson, a Southern Democrat who served as Princeton’s president from 1902-1910, allowed his cabinet to re-segregate federal government departments and also forced civil servant applicants to include photographs, considered by African Americans at the time as a move to weed them out.

“We appreciate the willingness of the students to work with us to find a way forward for them, for us and for our community,” Eisgruber said. “We were able to assure them that their concerns would be raised and considered through appropriate processes.”

Eisgruber and two other Princeton leaders, Dean Jill Dolan and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, agreed to a number of actions including a request to Princeton’s board of trustees about removing Wilson’s name from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as well as to survey students about removing the name.

The university leaders also agreed to initiate a request for the removal of a mural of Wilson from a school dining hall, to enhance cultural sensitivity training for faculty and to establish rooms on campus for "cultural affinity groups."

The students also secured immunity for those who occupied the president’s office.

Following news of the agreement, the university notified students via email that a "non-specific bomb and firearm threat" had been made in reference to the student protest.

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