University takes steps to diversify naming of buildings and campus iconography

Princeton University has taken steps to carry out recommendations of the Trustee committee on Woodrow Wilson's legacy that are intended to bring greater diversity to the naming of campus buildings and spaces and to diversify the art and iconography on the campus.  

At its summer executive committee meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted a policy on the naming of programs, positions and spaces (PDF) that includes the creation of a special Council of the Princeton University Community (CPUC) Committee on Naming to provide advice to the Trustees when requested by the Board. 

Under the policy, the Trustees retain sole responsibility over all such naming, with the expectation that they generally will carry out this responsibility through their Committee on University Resources. When the Trustees identify a particular space for honorific naming, they may ask the CPUC committee for advice about a specific name they are suggesting, or they may ask the CPUC committee to propose a name for the designated space. 

When the Trustees ask the CPUC committee to propose a name, it is expected that the CPUC committee will solicit public input about potential names. 

The policy notes that "as the University expands the portfolio of honorific namings on campus, it should take into account the University's aspiration to be diverse and inclusive. While not every honorific naming need increase the diversity of campus names, the overall trajectory of such namings should do so." 

The policy also calls upon the Trustees to seek the advice of the CPUC committee on whether a donor-proposed naming is consistent with the University's standards if the proposed naming is not for the donor, a close relative or friend or an alumni class, but rather is for a public figure or a country, corporation or other entity.  

The ten members of the Committee on Naming will include four faculty members (one of whom will serve as chair), two undergraduates, one graduate student, one staff member, one alumnus or alumna, and the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. The chair of the committee will meet annually with the Trustee University Resources committee to report on activities of the CPUC committee and discuss any issues or concerns that may have arisen over the course of the year. 

The continuing status of the special CPUC committee will be reviewed after three years. It is expected that its members will be appointed at the Sep. 26 meeting of the CPUC.     

Art and Iconography

In recommending greater diversity in campus art and iconography, the Wilson Legacy committee encouraged the administration to "consider the possibility of commissioning artwork that honors those who helped make Princeton a more diverse and inclusive place or that expresses the University's aspiration to be more diverse, inclusive and welcoming to all members of its community." 

To pursue this set of recommendations, the University has established a new Campus Iconography Committee to:

  • Identify public interior and exterior spaces on campus that could be enlivened "in ways that reflect and connect with the campus community's diversity." 
  • Prioritize spaces in which to encourage the academic or administrative units they house to diversify the aesthetics of their spaces.
  • Encourage residential colleges to diversify their iconography, art and aesthetics.
  • Identify spaces outside academic and administrative departments and the residential colleges that students could be asked to "aesthetically enliven."
  • Recommend criteria for expanding portraiture on campus and collaborate with the Campus Art Steering Committee (CASC) to expand the campus portraiture collection.
  • Consult with the CASC regarding its efforts to diversify the campus art collection. 

The Iconography committee will be aided by an advisory group that will include senior administrators and two alumni—Andy Chen '09 and Waqas Jawaid '10—with experience in this field. The committee will also form three ad hoc working groups, on campus portraiture, the identification of public spaces (with an early focus on the reading room in Firestone Library), and representations of Princeton's history. This last group will look at innovative and nuanced ways to narrate, demonstrate and reflect the complexities of Princeton's history, including through temporary and permanent exhibits. Each working group will be chaired by a faculty member of the Iconography committee and will include at least one additional committee member along with other faculty, students and staff. 

The Iconography committee will be co-chaired by Executive Vice President Treby Williams and Carolyn Rouse, Professor of Anthropology and director of the Program in African Studies. Its members will include Professor of Religion and African American Studies Wallace Best, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion LaTanya Buck, Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Culture Bruno Carvalho, Monique Clairborne '17, Nicholas Fernandez '18, Chase Hommeyer '19, graduate student in Anthropology Brandon Hunter, University Architect Ron McCoy and Professor of History Marni Sandweiss. 

As part of its outreach to interested members of the campus community, the committee will be hosting a public lecture on campus iconography during the week of Nov. 7.