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Douglas Andrews / Sep. 18, 2020

Princeton's President Steps in It

The university's public admission of "embedded" racism meets the law of unintended consequences.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber has outsmarted himself. Either that, or he’s simply reaping what he’s sown.

Earlier this month, when he published a virtuously virtue-signaling open letter to the Princeton community, Eisgruber lamented, among other things, the racism that’s “embedded” within the university itself.

This disturbing admission, naturally, caught the attention of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. And why wouldn’t it? Princeton is racist, they tell us, racist!

Accordingly, DeVos’s Department of Education has informed the school that it’s now under investigation. It did so with a six-page letter so chock-full of whereases and heretofores that it reads like a university administration’s worst nightmare.

“Since you became president in 2013,” the letter begins, “and in exchange for well over $75 million in federal Title IV taxpayer funds alone, Princeton University (‘Princeton’) has repeatedly represented and warranted to the U.S. Department of Education (‘Department’) Princeton’s compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [which states] ‘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.’”

But the DoE was just getting warmed up. “Based on its admitted racism,” the letter continues, “[the Department] is concerned Princeton’s nondiscrimination and equal opportunity assurance in its Program Participation Agreements from at least 2013 to the present may have been false.”

Well. Has Princeton been raking in these many millions of taxpayer funds under false pretenses? The Department of Education — that suddenly beauteous brainchild of the Jimmy Carter administration — wants to know.

The letter then demands that Princeton cough up all manner of “requested records, make available the identified Princeton personnel for transcribed interviews under oath, and answer the specified questions in accordance with the deadlines specified below.”

Have a nice day, President Eisgruber!

To be sure, Princeton has come a long way since the early 1900s, when its president, Woodrow Wilson, actually was a racist — “a racist pig,” as columnist Dylan Mathews put it. Wilson, after all, was the progressive Democrat who, after a stint as New Jersey’s governor, was elected our nation’s 28th president, whereupon he promptly re-segregated multiple agencies of the federal government — including separate workspaces, lunchrooms, and bathrooms — and personally fired 15 of 17 black supervisors, whom he then replaced with white ones.

No wonder Eisgruber, in June, announced that the university would be sandblasting Wilson’s name from its School of Public and International Affairs and the residential college that bear his name. “Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college whose scholars, students, and alumni must stand firmly against racism in all its forms,” the memo declared. And good riddance to the school’s 13th president.

As for Princeton’s current chief executive, it’s hard to blame him for his misstep and the embarrassment it’s caused. After all, Eisgruber was just trying to keep The Mob at bay, trying to keep the torch-and-pitchfork crowd away from the President’s House. And he no doubt bought himself some time.

But wokeness giveth, and wokeness taketh away.


Update: Princeton responded to the DoE by essentially blaming the entire country for its troubles: “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’s hard out there for a university president.

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