Message from the College Council on the Decision to Rename our Residential College

Friday, Jul 10, 2020

Hello and welcome to First College from your College Council. 

We are writing today in light of the University’s recent decision to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from our residential college and the School of Public and International Affairs. This is the first of many steps needed to combat anti-Black racism on our campus. As your Council, we are committed to this fight for racial justice and plan to use our power and responsibility to create a space that reflects these values.

The founding ideals of our residential college, and the residential college system as a whole, were to build a community that accepts students for who they are. The fact that our residential college bore the name of Wilson – a segregationist – directly contradicts the spirit of inclusivity upon which our college was founded. Thus, the name has compounded systemic injustices faced by Black students and other students of color at Princeton and beyond. As the first residential college on campus, it is even more vital that we actively confront our racist past instead of passively waiting for facility changes to force the end of this memorialization of Wilson. For students who are interested in learning more about the history of the founding of our college, we encourage you to read about it here from First College and here from ODUS. 

We would be remiss not to recognize the tireless efforts of the Black Justice League in effecting this change and ensuring that students, faculty, and the administration no longer ignore the important and honest conversations about the experiences of people of color at Princeton. We encourage you to read the writing of the Black Justice League both in 2015 and immediately following the announcement of the removal of Wilson’s name. As your Council, we are proud to stand in solidarity with student organizers from the Black Justice League as well as those who /are currently working to diversify campus spaces and systems. 

We urge all students to read and reflect on the demands of undergraduates, graduate students, and the faculty. We want to highlight and uplift student organizers working with Students Against Anti-Black Racism within the Woodrow Wilson School, and the organizations that co-signed their demands, in order to bolster these important efforts to create comprehensive yet overdue change regarding race at Princeton.

As your College Council, we are committed to shaping a community at First College that recognizes, supports, and empowers student activists who are striving to impart change within our residential college and our campus at large. An involved partnership between the Council and the College is the first step in fostering an identity in which all students can find safety and pride. As we work on programming for the coming year, the Council is approaching every event and space with these sentiments in mind. The Council and students of First College are uniquely tasked with navigating the challenges of the upcoming school year while integrating the College’s commitment to moving forward from Wilson’s damaging legacy. We emphasize how important First College is to the academic and social well-being of Princeton students and we intend on maintaining our tight-knit community regardless of circumstances. 

We look forward to serving as your First College Council for the upcoming school year.

Your First College Council

Rishika Deshide ‘23, co-chair

Mary Elizabeth Marquardt ‘23, co-chair

Yara Daraiseh ‘23

Jani Dumapit ‘23

Sreesha Ghosh ‘23

Sophie Li ‘23

Philip Maruri ‘23

Tanvi Nibhanupudi ‘23

Violet Prete ‘23

Caroline Subbiah ‘23