Protesting Princeton students and university reach agreement, ending occupation

20 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Princeton Agrees to Consider Removing a President’s Name.

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY: Princeton University will look into removing the name of former US President Woodrow Wilson from buildings and school programs under a deal signed with student demonstrators over what they call his racist legacy. At Princeton University, the archaic term “master” has been retired and will no longer be sanctioned by the school to refer to leaders of its residential colleges.PRINCETON, N.J. – Princeton University has reached an agreement with students protesting inside the president’s office, ending a nearly two-day sit-in.PRINCETON — Princeton University’s president and the students camping in his office signed an agreement late Thursday that outlines changes sought by the protesting students and ends the two-day, 32-hour occupation. “We appreciate the willingness of the students to work with us to find a way forward for them, for us and for our community,” Eisgruber said in a statement. “We were able to assure them that their concerns would be raised and considered through appropriate processes.” Moments after the students emerged from signing the agreement, the university received a “non-specific bomb and firearm threat that made reference to a student protest on campus,” via email, an alert to the campus read. Thursday’s agreement between students and several top administrators at the renowned Ivy League university in New Jersey ended a 32-hour sit-in outside Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber’s office, a university statement said.

The sit-in came amid racial tension and escalating student activism on college campuses nationwide and focused in part on what students called Wilson’s legacy of racism. The debate came in the midst of a national escalation of the topic of race on campus, with students at dozens of colleges confronting administrators and other students and presenting demands — and anonymous threats surfacing, as well. On Tuesday night, an anonymous Twitter user sent messages threatening to shoot black students at Kean University at the same time as students were holding a rally to raise awareness of racial unrest at college campuses. Protest organizers from the Black Justice League have called on Princeton to remove Wilson’s name and image from its public spaces, as well as from the university’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Kane and her friends let the comment and the looks slide but the moment sticks out to her as one of the first instances she was treated differently on campus because of her race. Wilson, the 28th US president from 1913 to 1921, was a leader of the Progressive Movement but also supported racial segregation, which was legal and part of public policy at the time in the United States, particularly in southern states. President Christopher Eisgruber immediately agreed to the idea of a cultural space Wednesday night, but declined to sign the demands and promised to continue talking with students about the other ideas. West, students say, implored to university officials that protesting students were steadfast in staying in their occupation until an agreement was reached. Amidst feelings of both unrest and solidarity that surrounded the ongoing sit-in at Nassau Hall Thursday evening, students like Kane shared their experiences with racism on campus and their reasons for braving the rain to be among the protestors.

Though many of the protestors grandparents weren’t born yet when Wilson left the White House in 1921, the students are offended by the former president’s bigotry and by the esteem with which he is still held at the university he once presided over as president. Calls for the removal of Wilson’s name from Princeton, where he served as president from 1902 to 1910, arose during a wave of demonstrations at U.S. colleges over the treatment of minority students. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” at the White House; he also segregated soldiers by race during World War I, though he broke with his own prejudices long enough to pay black and white soldiers the same miserable salary.

He agreed to write to the chair of the board of trustees to discuss Wilson’s legacy, including the group’s request that his name be removed, and for the board to collect information from the campus community about the name. Eisgruber, the university’s president, told students Wednesday that he agreed that Wilson had been a racist but that he had done some things that were honorable and others that were worthy of scorn. By signing below, I agree to have verbalized the following during the Thursday afternoon meeting with the BJL: Write to Professor Cadava tonight to initiate the process to consider removal of Wilson’s mural, which will express President Eisgruber’s personal view that the mural should be removed from the Wilcox Dining Hall.

Protesters remained inside Eisgruber’s office late Thursday trying to hash out an agreement. a meeting during which the president reportedly made some concessions. “Princeton is the number one school in the country,” Kane said, adding that she wants to stand in solidarity with other similar protests at schools around the country, but that she also wants to change inherent racist tendencies on campus. It was just one example of feeling silenced, but Tadese maintains there’s a larger problem – the lack of understanding in the administration about the difficulties students of color face.

The wave of campus protests that began with the University of Missouri and resulted in the resignation of the president and chancellor earlier this month was echoed at Claremont McKenna College where the dean of students stepped down for having written something innocuous, but mistaken for evidence of racist intent, in an email. The university expressed “a commitment to working toward” more campus artwork showing people of diverse ethnic backgrounds and said it would allocate four rooms of one building for the use of “cultural affinity groups.” It also said they would consider making a curriculum change to include a “diversity requirement.” Esther Maddox, a junior who participated in the sit-in, said it was “a long, exhausting and really trying experience.” She said she felt that “what we are doing is creating a campus environment that will eventually allow people like me to feel more comfortable on this campus.” BJL members will be involved in a working group with the staff of the Residential Colleges to begin discussions on the viability of the formation of Affinity Housing for those interested in black culture.

While there have been appalling examples of intolerance for free speech by students who clearly don’t understand the concept (we’re looking at you, Mizzou), most of the protests reflect a refreshing skepticism and impatience with the status quo. The complaints about “political correctness run amok” at these schools comes from the same folks who complain about any kind of protest that threatens to disrupt the way things are. Dean Gonzalez will work with the BJL to invite two members to attend the meeting on December 8th to discuss with the General Education Task Force the possibility of a diversity requirement.

On the final demand concerning amnesty from disciplinary action for those who remained in President Eisgruber’s office overnight on November 18th, 2015. It brought to mind this old quote by Woodrow Wilson: “Segregation is not a humiliation, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.” Wilson did not approve of socializing between the races, so he couldn’t help “white-splaining” to black civil rights leaders why a separate, but equal military made sense.

In the future, information in regards to processes concerning disciplinary action, protests and Rights, Rules and Responsibilities will be clearly given from administration to students in writing.

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