Princeton under federal investigation for past racism on campus

The school's president admitted the 274-year-old institution has a racist history

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Princeton University has a lot of explaining to do after its president recently admitted that racism is embedded in its history.

The Washington Examiner reported that a letter by Christopher Eisgruber, the school’s president claims, “racism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton” adding that ”racist assumptions” are “embedded in structures of the University itself…anti-Black racism has a visible bearing upon Princeton’s campus makeup.”

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This shocking admission puts the Ivy League school in a bind because of the millions in federal funds the school has received. Per Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The Department of Education has responded, informing the school it is being investigated for the violation.

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Students walk on campus at Princeton University on February 4, 2020 in Princeton, New Jersey. T(Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

A letter to addressed to the University states:

“Based on its admitted racism, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) is concerned Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity assurances in its Program Participation Agreements from at least 2013 to the present may have been false.” It continues to say, “The Department is further concerned Princeton perhaps knew, or should have known, these assurances were false at the time they were made.

Finally, the Department is further concerned Princeton’s many nondiscrimination and equal opportunity claims to students, parents, and consumers in the market for education certificates may have been false, misleading, and actionable substantial misrepresentations in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1094(c)(3)(B) and 34 CFR 668.71(c). Therefore, the Department’s Office of Postsecondary Education, in consultation with the Department’s Office of the General Counsel, is opening this investigation.”

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The Department of Education asks that the university responds with concrete evidence of racism. It is requiring the president to sit for an interview under oath along with a “spreadsheet identifying each person who has, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin, been excluded from participation in, been denied the benefits of, or been subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance as a result of the Princeton racism or ‘damage’ referenced in the President’s Letter.” 

Princeton, which was founded in 1746, has received over $75M in federal funds since Eisgruber became president in 2013, according to The Washington Post.

“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,” Princeton spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement to the Post. “The University disagrees and looks forward to furthering our educational mission by explaining why our statements and actions are consistent not only with the law, but also with the highest ideals and aspirations of this country.”

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