Telling the full story about Woodrow Wilson – his achievements, but also his abhorrent discriminatory views and actions – is important to Princeton University as it wrestles to present the full picture of its history while striving for a more inclusive present and future.
“Double Sights” exists because of a series of events beginning in 2015 when more than 100 students organized by the Black Justice League held a protest, including a 32-hour sit-in, at the office of University President Christopher Eisgruber, bringing additional energy to long-standing student concerns about Wilson’s legacy, institutional history, and the presence of racism and bigotry on college campuses. The students demands included adding a diversity requirement to the core curriculum, creating additional affinity spaces for people of color, requiring a mandatory cultural-competency training for the faculty, and stripping the name and imagery of Woodrow Wilson from all of its institutions and buildings.
The University's Board of Trustees formed a "Wilson Legacy Review Committee" to consider how Princeton recognizes Wilson, the University's 13th president, governor of New Jersey, and 28th president of the United States. Specifically, the committee considered whether changes should be made in how the University recognizes Wilson.
While the trustees decided in 2016 to retain Wilson's name, their report called for a number of actions: 1) creation of a special trustee committee on diversity and inclusion; 2) establishment of a pipeline program to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue doctoral degrees; 3) modification of Princeton’s informal motto to emphasize inclusivity; 4) a more concerted effort to diversify campus art and iconography; and 5) the creation of opportunities to learn more about aspects of Princeton’s history that have been forgotten, overlooked, subordinated, or suppressed, including the creation of a Wilson "marker" educating the campus community and others about both the positive and negative dimensions of Wilson’s legacy.
As a result, a “marker” committee comprised of faculty, students, and staff was formed, co-chaired by Woodrow Wilson School Dean Cecilia Rouse and University Architect Ron McCoy. The committee entertained a number of proposals by noted artists and firms from across the United States.
Walter Hood’s “Double Sights” stood out – both for its impressive design and how it captures Wilson's complicated legacy. Hood is well recognized for work that captures historical moments with clarity and honesty, while also considering the needs of the community in which he is working. His installation on Scudder Plaza in front of Robertson Hall attempts to convey an honest reckoning of just who Wilson was. It also is intended to provoke conversation and robust debate as the University continues to strive toward a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus community.
In 2020, the trustees revisited their decision about the name, and on June 26, voted to remove the name Woodrow Wilson and rename the School the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.