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Princeton University is under investigation by the Department of Education

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The US Department of Education launched an investigation into Princeton University after its president’s acknowledged that racism remained ’embedded’ at the institution.  

Officials with the Trump administration on Wednesday addressed a letter to Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber over his recent comments about systematic racism.  

The Department of Education (DOE) noted that Princeton University had received more than $75million in federal funding, despite potentially not adhering to the Title VI mandates. 

‘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,’ according to the DOE.

Under such a statute, federal officials claimed that Eisgruber’s acknowledgement has led them to question the university’s commitment to non-discriminatory practices.

The US Department of Education said this week that it launched an investigation into Princeton University after its president Christopher Eisgruber published an open letter addressing systematic racism

‘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,’ the letter read.  

‘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.’

Subsequently, the DOE could force Princeton University to pay back the millions of dollars it’s collected over the years. 

The DOE, led by US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, also requested additional documents and transcribed interviews with selected individuals.   

On September 2, Eisgruber published an open letter on Princeton University’s website that discussed efforts to combat systematic racism. 

The letter was meant to bring attention to initiatives implemented at Princeton University to dispel racial inequality. 

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber (pictured) wrote in an open letter on September 2 that ‘Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself’

The letter read: ‘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. 

‘Race-based inequities in America’s health care, policing, education, and employment systems affect profoundly the lives of our staff, students, and faculty of color.

‘Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself.’

The letter offered an example of systematic racism at the institution, like ‘Princeton inherits from earlier generations at least nine departments and programs organized around European languages and culture, but only a single, relatively small program in African studies.’

Princeton University in the past has acknowledged is participation in racism, starting in 1746 when it was founded as the College of New Jersey.

‘The University’s first nine Presidents all owned slaves, a slave sale took place on campus in 1766, and enslaved people lived at the President’s House until at least 1822. One professor owned a slave as late as 1840,’ according to Princeton University’s website.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos (pictured) answers questions following a visit to Forsyth Central High School in Cumming, Georgia

Following the DOE’s announcement, Princeton University released a statement that pushed back at the agency’s accusations.

‘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,’ the statement read.

‘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.’ 

The statement also furthered the institution’s stance regarding systematic racism and defended Eisgruber’s mention of racism at the school.

‘The University also stands by our statements about the prevalence of systemic racism and our commitment to reckon with its continued effects, including the racial injustice and race-based inequities that persist throughout American society.’ it read.

Under the Trump administration, experts told The New York Times that this latest investigation suggested a move by conservative politicians to stop race-based college admissions 

As noted by The New York Times, this investigation by the DOE is the latest in a series of obstacles leveled at Ivy Leagues by the Trump administration.

Experts told NYTimes that the decisions were likely an extension of GOP efforts to stop race-based college admissions.  

The US Department of Justice in August accused Yale University of breaking federal laws by discriminating against Asian-Americans and white Americans.

As a result, the DOJ was asked to stop looking at race or national origins when considering admissions. The DOJ threatened a lawsuit if Yale University did not comply, but the school declined earlier this week.

Yale University argued that its admission policies were in line with federal law.    

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