Four 5C presidents denounce Department of Education investigation into Princeton

A table outside of a building is under a tree with orange leaves.
Four of the 5C presidents sign onto a letter demanding the Department of Education stop their investigation at Princeton University. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

Four 5C presidents have signed onto a letter denouncing a Department of Education investigation into alleged violations of anti-discrimination law at Princeton University. 

Scripps College President Lara Tiedens, Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr, Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe and Pitzer College President Melvin Oliver joined more than 110 college presidents in requesting that the DOE “abandon its ill-considered investigation of Princeton University.” Claremont McKenna College President Hiram Chodosh did not sign onto the letter. 

CMC spokesperson Gilien Silsby said in an email to TSL that the college rarely signs on to such letters “as a matter of practice and our nonpartisanship principles.” 

And furthermore, we will not dignify legal actions we view as an extremely cynical political move with a direct response,” Silsby added.

In the Sept. 2 letter to the Princeton community that prompted the DOE investigation, President Christoher L. Eisgruber addressed the university’s plans to combat systemic racism. In the statement, Eisgruber said “racism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton,” and that past racism remains “embedded in structures of the university itself.”

On Sept. 16, Robert King, DOE assistant secretary, sent a letter to Eisgruber titled “Princeton University’s Admissions of Racism/Potential Violations of Prohibitions Against Substantial Misrepresentation Arising from Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity Assurances,” announcing the DOE’s opening of an investigation into Princeton based on his statements. 

Due to Princeton’s use of federal funds, King said, Princeton must abide by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. According to King, Eisgruber’s assertions in the letter suggest that Princeton may have violated Title VI, as Princeton’s previous assertions that it does not discriminate on the basis of race “may have been false.”

On Sept. 24, the letter denouncing the investigation was written by Wesleyan University President Michael Roth and Amherst College President Biddy Martin and has since been signed by other college presidents.

The letter called the DOE’s actions an “outrageous” use of federal resources. 

“As presidents of colleges and universities, we, too, acknowledge the ways that racism has affected and continues to affect the country’s institutions, including our own,” it said.

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