ACE, Higher Education Groups Support Princeton in Federal Inquiry After University Acknowledges Systemic Racism
September 30, 2020

ACE and 55 other higher education associations sent a letter to Secretary Betsy DeVos today to protest the Department of Education’s unprecedented move to investigate Princeton University for recognizing that racism remains a significant problem in U.S. higher education.

The investigation ostensibly is looking at possible misrepresentations in Princeton’s reports of adherence to federal non-discrimination law. As evidence, the department cited President Christopher Eisgruber’s Sept. 2 message to the Princeton community detailing the university’s efforts to combat systematic racism that began after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans whose killings by police sparked nationwide protests this summer.

In a statement responding to the department’s investigation, Princeton said that “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.” It pledged a full response to the department in due course.

The university’s public stance on institutional racism sits squarely in line with a number of other colleges and universities that have been asking themselves tough questions in recent years about race and injustice and how to move forward in productive ways. ACE and the other associations endorsing today’s letter are in full support of Princeton, urging the department to end its “misguided effort” to  “use the power of the federal government to investigate schools that are trying to build a better, more inclusive America.”

The letter is posted in full below:

“We are in the midst of a national reckoning about the role systemic racism and racial violence and injustice has played in the history of our country and the continuing need to assess, address, and right the wrongs that continue to exist today.

It is to the credit of a great nation and thoughtful individuals that all parts of our society, from the business community and religious institutions to professional athletes and sports leagues to civic and elected officials, are engaged in this collective effort to take stock and chart a productive, inclusive, and equitable path forward. Like the rest of our society, colleges and universities across the United States are engaged in this most important of efforts, with leaders from all types of institutions, public and private, faith-based and secular, tackling in forthright fashion what can be done today to ensure their campuses are exemplars of equity and inclusivity.

It is vital for the federal government to support and assist this pursuit of diversity, equity, and inclusion. One way to do this is by affirming institutional and individual confidence that speaking both within organizations and publicly about these hard, important issues will be enabled and applauded, not attacked by the government.

Like colleges and universities all over our country, Princeton University is strongly committed to ending racial injustice and preventing discrimination in any form and to do so in a way that will benefit all members of the Princeton community. Regrettably, instead of encouraging Princeton’s efforts, the Department of Education launched an unprecedented and unwarranted investigation into the institution. Such an action is likely to chill the genuine efforts of hundreds of other institutions, many without the resources that Princeton has to defend itself against a federal investigation, to identify, recognize, and correct injustices.

We urge the department to end this misguided effort and not use the power of the federal government to investigate schools that are trying to build a better, more inclusive America.”

In a separate letter to the department last week, Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, and Biddy Martin, president of Amherst College, led more than 80 college presidents in asking the department to drop its investigation.