Princeton Admitted Past Racism. Now It Is Under Investigation.

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tags: Princeton, racism, civil rights, colleges and universities

The Trump administration said this week that it was investigating whether Princeton has violated federal civil rights law, suggesting that a public expression of contrition for a history of “systemic racism” at the university was an acknowledgment of illegal behavior.

“You admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist,” federal officials wrote in a letter to the school on Wednesday.

The investigation is the latest escalation in the administration’s campaign against the Ivy League for its policies on matters of race. Last month, the Justice Department accused Yale of violating federal civil rights law through its admissions policies, and it has supported legal efforts to end affirmative action at Harvard.

In their letter to Princeton this week, officials cited a public statement made this month by the school’s president, Christopher L. Eisgruber, in which he charged university leaders with developing plans “to combat systemic racism at Princeton and beyond.”


In a statement, Princeton defended Mr. Eisgruber’s letter, saying that it was an attempt to reckon with the “continued effects” of systemic racism throughout history, and that the university was operating within the bounds of federal civil rights law.

“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 said.

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