In an announcement sent on Wednesday to Princeton’s President, Christopher L. Eisgruber, DOE explained that the investigation had been triggered by an open letter that he sent to the university community on 9/2. From the DOE announcement:

Since you became President in 2013, 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, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq. Title VI provides 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. Also, Princeton has made many material nondiscrimination and equal opportunity representations to students, parents, and consumers in the market for education certificates during this time.

On September 2, 2020, you admitted Princeton’s educational program is and for decades has been racist. Among other things, you said “[r]acism and the damage it does to people of color persist at Princeton …” and “[r]acist assumptions…remain embedded in structures of the University itself.”


Eisgruber’s open letter is cringeworthy throughout. Presumably he wrote it to signal that both he and the univerity he leads are on the right side in the cultural war that has engulfed the country over the last few months, but he obviously failed to consider the full implications of what he was saying. Eisgruber is a legal scholar. Perhaps if he’d been a humanist he might have been more alert to the possibility of being “hoist with his own petard.”