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College Associations Urge DeVos to Drop Princeton Probe

October 1, 2020
 
 

Associations representing the nation’s colleges and universities called on the Education Department Wednesday to drop its civil rights investigation of Princeton University after its president acknowledged that institutional racism exists on the campus.

The Trump administration announced the probe last month after Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber, in saying that he is committed to addressing institutional racism, acknowledged that there has been a problem.

“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,” Eisgruber wrote.

In a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the American Council on Education and 55 other higher education groups said that investigating universities for violating civil rights laws for acknowledging the existence of institutional racism would have a chilling effect on institutions confronting their problems.

“Regrettably, instead of encouraging Princeton’s efforts, the Department of Education launched an unprecedented and unwarranted investigation into the institution,” ACE president Ted Mitchell wrote in the letter. “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,” he wrote.

The letter comes after more than 80 college and university leaders also urged DeVos to drop the investigation last week.

But the Education Department said in a response to that call that the investigation will continue. “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,” a statement said. “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.”

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