Have you heard about the emerging claim among progressive scholars that 2+2 can equal 5?
That’s the same kind of logic currently being applied by Princeton University leadership as it simultaneously claims it’s racist — but also not racist.
Over the summer, students, faculty and alumni decried the private Ivy League institution as a hotbed of racism, from the systemic kind, to garden-variety microaggressions, to hiring, funding and policy decisions.
“At this moment of massive global uprising in the name of racial justice, we the faculty—Black, Latinx, Asian, and members of all communities of color along with our white colleagues—call upon the University to take immediate concrete and material steps to openly and publicly acknowledge the way that anti-Black racism, and racism of any stripe, continue to thrive on its campus,” stated a July 4 demand letter from Princeton faculty.
In response, on September 2, Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber complied.
He declared in an open letter to the campus community that racism is very much still embedded in the Ivy League institution.
According to his memo, “Racism and the damage it does to people of color nevertheless persist at Princeton as in our society, sometimes by conscious intention but more often through unexamined assumptions and stereotypes, ignorance or insensitivity, and the systemic legacy of past decisions and policies.”
“…Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself.”
With that, in mid-September the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into the university, because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination based on race. If Princeton is racist, it is ineligible for federal funding.
In response, the university put out a statement that it “stands by its representations to the Department and the public that it complies with all laws and regulations governing equal opportunity, non-discrimination and harassment.”
Next the statement walks back the part where Eisgruber previously talked about systemic racism on campus, and adds language about the grander systemic racism problem in America as a whole.
“The University also stands by our statements about the prevalence of systemic racism and our commitment to reckon with its continued effects, including the racial injustice and race-based inequities that persist throughout American society,” it states.
It concludes by defending its original narrative in much more muted and generalized terminology. Gone are the declarations that Princeton itself is a hotbed of systemic racism.
“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 letter concludes.
“The University disagrees and looks forward to furthering our educational mission by explaining why our statements and actions are consistent not only with the law, but also with the highest ideals and aspirations of this country.”
The truth is the Education Department could have picked any number of universities to prove its point. In the wake of the George Floyd protests, dozens of university leaders and VPs of diversity and inclusion fired off campuswide missives declaring the problem of systemic and garden-variety racism on campus and elsewhere and pledging to do better.
While some argue Princeton is the victim of “the ultimate troll,” others say it’s time to call higher education’s bluff.
How can universities that literally worship at the alter of diversity, inclusion and multiculturalism, universities filled with administrators and academics who are progressive and registered Democrats, universities that have earmarked tens of millions of dollars to critical race theory polices, programs and staff, universities that tout “holistic admissions” in their practices for a diverse student body, universities that prioritize hiring faculty of color — how are they also systemically racist at the same time?
Therein lies the rub — they’re not.