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More than 80 college and university leaders on Thursday urged the Education Department to drop an investigation into Princeton University.

As The Washington Examiner first reported, the probe came after Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber in an open letter Sept. 2 wrote about the university’s efforts to combat systemic racism and acknowledged "racism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton." He also wrote that "racist assumptions" are "embedded in structures of the University itself."

The Education Department reportedly responded by saying that if that’s true, it is investigating whether the university violated federal civil rights laws.

The letter the university leaders signed, co-authored by Presidents Biddy Martin of Amherst College and Michael S. Roth of Wesleyan University, defended the right of Princeton and all “individuals, families, communities, businesses, corporations, and educational institutions” to examine their own role in perpetuating the country’s “legacies of slavery and racial oppression.”

By targeting Princeton, the Education Department is penalizing “an institution that is committed to becoming more inclusive by reckoning with the impact in the present of our shared legacies of racism,” the statement said.

An Education Department spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Princeton responded to the Education Department, saying, “It is unfortunate that the department appears to believe that grappling honestly with the nation’s history and the current effects of systemic racism runs afoul of existing law.”