Amherst College takes lead in condemning Education Department targeting Princeton

  • Amherst College President Biddy Martin speaks during commencement, Sunday.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2020 7:28:13 PM

AMHERST — Amherst College is among two institutions leading an effort by more than 80 colleges and universities urging the Department of Education to drop an investigation into Princeton University, which was launched in response to a letter from the university president intended to address systemic racism. 

Early this month, Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber released a letter addressing systemic racism throughout the university’s history and provided an outline of steps that the university will take to improve itself. 

Princeton, “for most of its history, intentionally and systematically excluded people of color, women, Jews, and other minorities,” Eisgruber said. While the university now takes “pride in the diversity of our community,” he said, systemic racism persists at Princeton and in society at large.

Citing this letter, the Department of Education announced that it will investigate Princeton for possible misrepresentation of adhering to non-discrimination law.

“Based on the facts, the Secretary of Education may consider measures against Princeton for false Program Participation Agreement nondiscrimination assurances, including an action to recover funds,” the letter from the department reads, referring to federal funding received by the university. 

Amherst College President Biddy Martin, along with Wesleyan University President Michael Roth, took the lead in penning a letter condemning the investigation, which they said seeks to punish Princeton for addressing past racism. The leaders of more than 80 colleges and universities also signed on in support.

“It is outrageous that the Department of Education is using our country’s resources to investigate an institution that is committed to becoming more inclusive by reckoning with the impact in the present of our shared legacies of racism,” Martin and Roth wrote.

“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,” they continued. “We stand together in recognizing the work we still need to do if we are ever ‘to perfect the union,’ and we urge the  Department of Education to abandon its ill-considered investigation of Princeton University.”

Of the Five Colleges, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire also signed on to the letter. Other signatories include the presidents of Harvard University, Vassar College, Yale University and the California Institute of the Arts.

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