Several academic associations are applying pressure to the Department of Education to drop its civil rights investigation into Princeton University, after Princeton’s president acknowledged institutional racism exists on its campus.
Last month, Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber said that the university was a source of institutional racism and that it will do better in the future. Part of his written statement to the university community read, “We must ask how Princeton can address systemic racism in the world, and we must also ask how to address it within our own community. That is true even though, for at least the past fifty years, this university has committed itself to becoming more inclusive. At a university that, for most of its history, intentionally and systematically excluded people of color, women, Jews, and other minorities, Princetonians — from the oldest alumni to the newest undergraduates — now take pride in the diversity of our community.”
The Department of Education, after Eisgruber’s admission, announced it will conduct a civil rights investigation into whether Princeton violated federal laws by accepting federal grants and funds while knowingly violating federal civil rights laws.
Fifty-six academic associations signed onto a letter addressed to Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and said that the department’s investigation would negatively impact higher education institutions in the future. American Council of Education president Ted Mitchell wrote, “Such an action is likely to chill the genuine efforts of hundreds of other institutions, many without the resources that Princeton has to defend itself against a federal investigation, to identify, recognize, and correct injustices.”
In short, academics are defending Princeton for admitting it was racist towards minority students and staff and that Princeton’s efforts of acknowledging and reversing its past conduct should not lead to an investigation.
So far, the Department of Education has resisted calls to end the investigation and cited the rule of law: “The allegations of current systemic racism at Princeton are deeply concerning. It’s doubly concerning that so many institution presidents would implore the department not to investigate these serious accusations.” It added, “The department is legally obligated to ensure that institutions receiving federal funds are in compliance with civil rights law. We owe it to students to ensure that they are able to access an education free of racial discrimination.”