We have yet to find a term for the student protests going on across the country that beats Mona Charen’s “snowflake fascists” and last week the precious little Maoists at Princeton got the biggest scalp since Tim Wolfe: They brought down Woodrow Wilson himself.
A group of fifteen Princeton students occupied the office of the university president last week with a list of “demands.” Their word, not mine. They wanted racial/cultural indoctrination—sorry, re-education—courses for all college staff and faculty. They wanted “a cultural space on campus dedicated specifically to Black students.” (A commenter at the Daily Princetonian wondered if this space would come with its own water fountain.) But most of all, they wanted Woodrow Wilson expunged from the school.
Wilson is the most famous president in Princeton’s history and the school has a program (the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs) and a residential college (Wilson College) named after him. Wilson College features, among other tributes, a giant mural of the man in the dining area.
Care to guess how long this group of fifteen students had to protest before the school’s current president agreed to do his best to disappear Wilson? Twenty hours.
Here’s what Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber acceded to: He agreed to push to get rid of the Wilson mural and to have the school’s trustees take up the question of scrubbing Wilson’s name from the public policy school and the residential college.
On the one hand, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. As David Harsanyi argued last week, Wilson really was the worst. A racist and a prig and a rotten human being. Not to mention a horrible president whose political legacy has harmed the country for a century. (If you want even more evidence on Wilson, read Christopher Caldwell’s blistering indictment of the man in the Claremont Review of Books.)
But this isn’t really about Wilson, of course. Like everything else in the modern university, it’s about power. It’s about the questions, Who? Whom? And it’s a sterling piece of education—maybe the most striking lesson any of the students at Princeton will learn in their undergraduate years.
If you can get a dozen of your friends together and sit in the president’s office for almost a full day, you can get college administrators to agree to just about anything.