Princeton keeps Woodrow Wilson's name on the school despite protests

Story highlights

  • Cruz had previously criticized the protestors
  • Princeton says it will do more on diversity on campus

(CNN)Princeton University announced Monday that its Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs would continue to bear the name of the 28th president, despite protests by student activists seeking to rename the school because of Wilson's record on racial issues.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz had once called the protestors "essentially pampered teenagers."
    In a press release, Princeton's Board of Trustees called for "an expanded and more vigorous commitment to diversity and inclusion at Princeton" -- but stopped short of renaming the school.
    "The trustees accepted the committee's recommendation that the school of public and international affairs and the undergraduate residential college that bear Wilson's name should continue to do so," they wrote of the former president who had once served as Princeton's president. "But that the University also must be 'honest and forthcoming about its history' and transparent 'in recognizing Wilson's failings and shortcomings as well as the visions and achievements that led to the naming of the school and the college in the first place.'"
    Students at Princeton -- where references to Woodrow Wilson's name and legacy are inescapable -- expressed outrage at the former president's record on race. Wilson once called racial segregation "a benefit" and defended the enslavement of blacks by saying slaves "were happy and well-cared for."
    The board pledged to adopt the recommendations made in a report by a special committee on Woodrow Wilson's legacy at Princeton. These recommendations include a series of steps to increase and encourage diversity on campus, a "broad range" of initiatives to contextualize Wilson's legacy and efforts to "diversify campus art and iconography."
    Additionally, the board accepted the report's recommendation to change Princeton's informal motto from "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of all nations" to "Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity."
    Quoting the special committee's report, the board wrote, "Princeton must openly and candidly recognize that Wilson, like other historical figures, leaves behind a complex legacy of both positive and negative repercussions, and that the use of his name implies no endorsement of views and actions that conflict with the values and aspirations of our times. We have said that in this report, and the University must say it in the settings that bear his name."
    The Board of Trustees' decision caps months of turmoil over the Wilson name at Princeton, part of a larger campus debate that mirrored protests over racial inequality and insensitivity at colleges across the country over the past year.
    And the fierce debate at Princeton even reverberated on the campaign trail. The Texas senator, a Princeton grad, reacted to activists' protests in December by calling those students "essentially pampered teenagers."
    "You see at universities these essentially pampered teenagers," Cruz said in a radio interview. "Many of them are from very wealthy homes, who complain that they don't want to hear anything that they disagree with, that it is a 'micro-aggression.' And it is the most bizarre and anti-academic notion you can have."
    The Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Board of Trustee's decision to retain the Wilson name.