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  • Writer's picturePhilip Ammerman

US Department of education investigates Princeton University for racism

I learned today that Princeton University is being investigated by the US Department Education for potential racism.

This takes place because Princeton University President Eisengruber wrote a letter to the Princeton community with these words:

"Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies,"

"On September 2, 2020, you admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist. Among other things, you said “[r]acism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton ...” and “[r]acist assumptions...remain embedded in structures of the University itself.” Princeton Univ. Office of Commc’ns, Letter from President Eisgruber on the University’s efforts to combat systemic racism (Sept. 2, 2020)"

It's difficult to imagine the stupidity needed to bring about such an investigation based on a self-reflective letter that announces new policies against racism (on top of a long series of actions already taken).

But under US Secretary of Education Betsy de Vos, I would expect nothing less.

This is either evidence of yet more massive stupidity, or it's a thinly-concealed attempt to intimidate one of the world's leading institutions of higher education to ignore what is happening around us.

What could that be? As President Eisengruber writes:

In June, I wrote to you as America entered a profound national reckoning with racism.  That reckoning is at once painful, because the harms done by systemic racism have been exposed so starkly, and promising, because we are seeing widespread and urgent desire to take action to achieve a more just society.

With that goal in mind, I charged my Cabinet in June to develop plans to combat systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.  In my letter, I invited suggestions from all of you, and many individuals and groups responded.  I am grateful for your input, and I write now with an update about our progress.

My Cabinet colleagues and I began our work early in the summer as people throughout America and around the world protested the cruel and unjust killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Rayshard Brooks.  As the Cabinet gathered last week to discuss preliminary recommendations, the nation reeled once more after a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back.

This outrageous and awful violence has revealed yet again, and with searing intensity, the long, painful, and ongoing existence of anti-Black racism in America.  Racial justice demands the scholarly and practical attention of this University.  Princeton contributes to the world through teaching and research of unsurpassed quality, and we must continue to find ways to bring that mission to bear against racism, and against all of the discrimination that damages the lives of people of color.

Whichever reason you choose, it's a problem.

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