As part of the Princeton University community calls for the school to cut its ties to former university (and U.S.) president Woodrow Wilson, a Powerline essay from Paul Mirengoff probes Wilson’s pivotal role in inspiring higher education changes that have produced this state of affairs.

The essay focus on a book from former Princeton President William Bowen and former Harvard President Derek Bok titled The Shape of the River.

Bowen and Bok cast the leaders of elite institutions of higher education in the omniscient role of the Mississippi riverboat pilot, steering their institutions through the dark and sometimes treacherous waters of race. They assert a prerogative for the administrators to use their sense of “the shape of the river” to make racially discriminatory decisions in the pursuit of educational and societal objectives. They want these administrators to have the autonomy to put their expertise to work, and they seem to deny the right of the rest of us — those who haven’t navigated in these waters — to second guess them.

Fifteen years later, it is fair to ask how well college administrators have navigated. Has their understanding of the shape of the river enabled them to anticipate and minimize hazards?

I say it hasn’t. I say, instead, that the administrators’ vessels have been swept headlong down the rapids and thrust against at least two very large boulders.

Boulder number one is the dumbing down of the curriculum. African-American studies departments blossom, often trafficking in nonsense and handing out A and A-minus grades with abandon. …

… Boulder number is two is intimidation and the curbing of free speech and the free exchange of ideas — the bedrock of the university as it formerly was conceived. Speech codes restrict speech that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at large because affirmative action admittees might experience “triggering.” …

… Princeton may no longer be proud of Woodrow Wilson, but Wilson would be proud of Princeton, or at least of William Bowen, its former president. Bowen’s case for race-based preferential admissions was a near perfect expression of Wilsonian worship of experts and disdain for common sense (the shape “that’s before your eyes’).

The baleful consequences of such admissions policies remind us of the perils of Wilsonianism.