Dear oh dear, what a pretty kettle of fish! In October last year Princeton put out a press statement announcing that the university was “extremely proud” to have received a national award for “excellence in diversity and inclusion”.
In July this year, however, several hundred Princeton professors and other academics signed a letter to the university’s president, Chris Eisgruber, in which they stated that “anti-black racism” played a powerful role at Princeton despite its “declared values of diversity and inclusion”. This prompted an admission of guilt from Mr Eisgruber, who wrote in an open letter earlier this month that racism persisted at Princeton and remained “embedded” in its structures.
Have race relations at Princeton deteriorated so badly in the eleven months since it won that diversity award? Or did it accept the award under false pretences? More seriously, has the university been misrepresenting its “non-discrimination and equal opportunity” policies and achievements for several years now?
One person who would like to know is Robert King, assistant secretary in the office of post-secondary education in the United States Department of Education. Two weeks ago he addressed a letter to Mr Eisgruber referring to the latter’s admissions about racism at Princeton.
Since Mr Eisgruber had become president of the university in 2013, Mr King wrote, the institution had received well over $75 million in federal funding. This was in return for repeated assurances that Princeton complied with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited anyone who received federal assistance from discriminating on racial grounds.
Princeton, said Mr King, had made many material “non-discrimination” representations to students, parents, and consumers in the market for education certificates. Mr Eisgruber’s admission raised concerns that these representations may have been “false, misleading, and actionable”. He was accordingly asked to provide records, as well as personnel for interviews under oath, and was warned that the secretary for education might consider “an action to recover funds”.