Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee on Principles to Govern Renaming and Changes to Campus Iconography
In its April 2016 report, the Wilson Legacy Review Committee stated that “there is and should be a presumption that names adopted by the trustees after full and thoughtful deliberation … will remain in place, especially when the original reasons for adopting the names remain valid.” As President Eisgruber noted in his message to the community on June 27, 2020, the Board reaffirmed that presumption in its deliberations about Woodrow Wilson’s name earlier this year, but concluded that “the presumption should yield in this case because of considerations specific to Wilson’s racist policies and to how his name shapes the identities of the School and the College.”
The University will undoubtedly face other questions, this year or in the future, about whether there are other namings on the Princeton campus for which the presumption articulated in the 2016 report should yield. In addition, in cases where the presumption continues to apply, questions may arise about whether it is appropriate for the University to add a contextualizing plaque or other marker with information about a namesake’s life or family. Finally, the University is likely to face related questions arising from calls for the removal or contextualization of statuary or other public art that might convey messages inconsistent with the University’s values and commitments.
We are accordingly charging this ad hoc trustee-faculty-student-alumni committee with developing general principles to govern questions about when and under what circumstances it might be appropriate for the University to remove or contextualize the names and representations of historical individuals honored on the Princeton campus. Recognizing that ultimate authority over these questions will remain with the Board of Trustees, we ask that the ad hoc committee focus on developing principles that can guide the Board’s decision-making about these issues over the long term, and on processes that might be used to bring issues or recommendations to the Board’s attention. We anticipate that this committee will make recommendations only about general issues of policy, not about specific names or other iconography on the campus.
We hope that in undertaking this task, the Committee will consult broadly, and that it will take into account past deliberations about this topic at Princeton and elsewhere. We would ask that the committee propose principles for adoption by the full Board of Trustees by the end of the 2020-21 academic year if possible.