Federal Government Opens Investigation on Princeton University

The investigation follows the university's comments earlier this year

Princeton University
Is Princeton University facing a contentious period?
Ramakrishna Gundra/Creative Commons

Earlier this year, Princeton University announced a number of changes to reckon with its own earlier history. These changes included being more forthcoming about the university’s history with racial discrimination, as well as changing the name of a school at the university named for former president Woodrow Wilson, whose racist beliefs weren’t well-received during his lifetime and which look even worse in retrospect.

For most people, Princeton’s acknowledgement of past misdeeds looked like an understandable response to unpleasant chapters in the university’s history. For the federal government, however, it was something else — grounds to launch an investigation.

A new report from the Associated Press details the federal government’s response. The article makes the government’s position clear: “In a letter to the university on Wednesday, the U.S. Education Department said the school’s acknowledgment of racism conflicts with previous assurances that Princeton complies with federal anti-discrimination laws.”

In a statement, Princeton appeared skeptical of the government’s assertion. “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 university said.

The Trump administration has begun emphasizing a different model of American history, which can be seen as connected to this salvo against Princeton. The report notes that it is unclear whether or nor this is an isolated incident, or whether the Education Department will take further action against other colleges and universities that have attempted a public reckoning with their own pasts.

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