By Russell Nieli
When it comes to race and gender, our major colleges and universities can usually be expected to come to the wrong conclusions and make unwise, often outrageous decisions. Just consider the recent past.
The news from our campuses, however, is not all bad. Earlier this month Princeton University’s Board of Trustees resolved an issue that in the fall of 2015 provoked angry student protests, including a 32-hour sit-in demonstration in the university president’s office led by a group called the Black Justice League.
The most controversial question dealt with the legacy of Princeton past president Woodrow Wilson, who is honored in many ways, including a public policy institute and one of its residential colleges that are named for him. Students from the Black Justice League demanded several changes be made, the most contentious being the removal of Wilson’s name from all places of honor at the university on the grounds that Wilson was a bigoted racist.
A great debate about Wilson’s past ensued, most of it poorly informed. Princeton’s president, Chris Eisgruber, did what university presidents usually do in such situations—he created a committee to look into the matter. But his appointees were unusually distinguished and contained some people—including the historian A. Scott Berg—who knew something about the complex life of Princeton’s early twentieth century president.
The committee solicited opinions from all segments of the Princeton community, and most importantly, sought extended input from scholars and historians like Berg. The input of these scholars persuaded the committee that Wilson did many valuable and praiseworthy things for both Princeton and the nation, ones that are consistent with the values the university supports today. CONTINUE READING HERE