Political Science Now

Education and Transparency: Changes in Campus Iconography


Education and Transparency: Changes in Campus Iconography

by Dianne Pinderhughes, University of Notre Dame

Woodrow Wilson’s standing has been widely recognized and honored in academic and public life. He was the APSA’s sixth President, 1909–1910, while he was President of Princeton University, and he was U.S. President 1913–1921. The charge for the APSA’s Woodrow Wilson Award, created in 1947 specifies: “The Woodrow Wilson Award is given annually for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs. The award, formerly supported by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, is sponsored by Princeton University. It carries a cash prize of $5,000.” 1 Princeton University created “the School of Public and International Affairs” in 1930, and in 1948 when “a graduate professional program was added, the School was renamed to honor Woodrow Wilson, who served as the 13th President of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey and 28th president of the United States.” 2 Other major national institutions have been created, including the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C., which hosts visiting scholars, and serves as “the official memorial to President Woodrow Wilson…” It is “the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum for tackling global issues through independent research and open dialogue….”

The invitation to write a short essay on the recent call by student members of the Black Justice League to remove Wilson’s name from various Princeton institutions was extended to “a wide range of colleagues whose views on this issue will interest our readers.”  I willingly accepted this invitation to comment on this controversial request. The idea is not limited to Wilson and Princeton University as a number of Universities and Colleges, states and local governments have been called upon to change their names, and divest themselves of their current identities, flags, colors, namesakes. At Yale, students have challenged the name of Calhoun College, a residential College named after John Calhoun, South Carolina Senator, Vice President, Secretary of State and strong defender of slavery. Yale’s President Peter Salovey greeted last Fall’s 2015 freshman class with a call to “have a thoughtful and public discussion of what we ought to do” 5 The conversation is still underway although a portrait of Calhoun was removed from the College dining room in January of this year.

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Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14, Issue 3/ September 2016, pp. 766-767