Chronicle of Higher Education, Princeton Acknowledged ‘Embedded’ Racism. The Education Dept. Says That’s Grounds for an Investigation:
The U.S. Education Department is investigating Princeton University for a possible violation of federal civil-rights law after the university’s president made public comments acknowledging systemic and embedded racism at the institution.
Department officials expressed concern in a letter to the university, dated September 16, that Princeton, “based on its admitted racism,” was not compliant with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits institutions that practice racial discrimination from receiving federal funds. Noting that Princeton had received “well over $75 million” in federal support since 2013, the letter stated that the university’s prior nondiscrimination and equal-opportunity assurances “may have been false.”
In this case, the “admitted racism” was an open letter that Princeton’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, sent to the Princeton community earlier this month. In the message, Eisgruber outlined steps his administration planned to take “to address systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.”
Eisgruber’s remarks followed a summer of activism over the university’s racial climate, which were punctuated by a July letter in which about 350 professors and graduate students demanded sweeping policy changes, asserting that “anti-Black racism has a visible bearing upon Princeton’s campus makeup and its hiring practices.”
In his letter, Eisgruber referred to a “painful” and “promising” national reckoning with racism that had resonated at his university. “Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society,” he wrote, “sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies.”
“Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself,” he continued, citing the fact that Princeton has “at least nine departments and programs organized around European languages and culture, but only a single, relatively small program in African studies.”
In its letter to the university, the department said it was compelled to act because of the “serious, even shocking nature of Princeton’s admissions” and warned that Secretary Betsy DeVos could try to recover federal funds. ...
[A]s commonplace as such statements from universities have become, one legal expert saw the potential for legal exposure, though he also thought such scrutiny would be limited to Ivy League and other selective institutions. “You have a Department of Education that seemingly never misses an opportunity to step into a culture-war battle,” Scott D. Schneider, a partner with Husch Blackwell, wrote in an email. “And this one is a gem.”