College presidents to feds: Lay off Princeton

Princeton's president admitted the university's educational program 'is and for decades has been racist'
By: | September 25, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education said Princeton University risked losing federal funding for admitting that systemic racism existed on campus. (GettyImages/aimintang)The U.S. Department of Education said Princeton University risked losing federal funding for admitting that systemic racism existed on campus. (GettyImages/aimintang)

More than 80 college and university leaders have signed a letter urging the U.S. Department of Education to abandon a civil rights investigation into Princeton University.

The agency announced its investigation earlier this month after Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber told the university in his own letter that its educational program “is and for decades has been racist.”

Eisengruber also laid out a plan to combat systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.

“Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies,” Eisengruber wrote.


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The Department of Education, however, said Princeton risked losing federal funding for admitting that systemic racism existed on campus.

The problem, the agency said, is that Eisgruber and school had previously declared it had complied with all regulations prohibiting discrimination.

The authors of the more recent letter—presidents Biddy Martin of Amherst College and Michael S. Roth of Wesleyan University—criticized the Department of Education for investigating a university that is working to become more inclusive while also examining the nation’s legacy of slavery and oppression.

“Along with individuals, families, and communities all across the country, colleges and universities are working to identify, acknowledge, and change the root causes of extreme racial inequalities in the country, including in access to healthcare, health outcomes, employment, income, wealth, and education,” Martin said. “If we, as a country, are to live up to our fiercely held ideals of equality, freedom, and opportunity for all, our government agencies need to work with us and not against us.”


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