Campus

Princeton Professors Demand University ‘Block Mechanisms’ of Racism

Letter signed by more than 250 Princeton professors presses university to give minority faculty additional leave

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Hundreds of Princeton University faculty members are demanding that the university make a litany of changes to atone for the university's "anti-Blackness."

A letter to university president Christopher Eisgruber and other leaders of the Ivy League school dated July 4 and signed by hundreds of Princeton professors and administrators demands, among other things, that the school give junior minority faculty members an additional semester of sabbatical in acknowledgment of the undue burden they bear to "stand as emblems and spokespersons of diversity at Princeton."

The more than 250 signatories represent roughly one-fifth of the Ivy League school's nearly 1,300 educators, and the demands are part of a larger wave of accusations of racism being leveled against institutions across the country sparked by George Floyd's killing at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in late May.

The Princeton professors are also demanding that the university remove a standard question from its application about misdemeanors and felony convictions "in recognition that mass incarceration and predatory policing not only menace the safety of all people of color at the University and their families but also hinder our community's progress towards racial justice," and that the school acknowledge on its website that it is "sited on indigenous land."

A spokesman for the university did not respond to requests for comment, but the school has made no public acknowledgment that it is poised to act on the demands.

The letter was written by four faculty members: director of creative writing Tracy Smith, astrophysics professor Jenny Greene, classics professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta, and English professor Andrew Cole. The coauthors did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The letter's demands irked some on campus. Princeton student Akhil Rajasekar, the founder and president of the campus's Federalist Society chapter, said the letter embodied "thinly veiled racism" rather than racial equality. In an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, he called the claims of faculty oppression "utterly laughable."

"The idea that non-white faculty are owed extra rewards for ‘invisible work' is thinly veiled racism," Rajasekar said. "Being a member of Princeton's faculty is among the highest privileges known to mankind; it is utterly laughable for any member of an Ivy League university to consider themselves deserving of more."

Princeton now grants faculty members a semester of paid leave after they have worked for five continuous semesters, but the letter demands that minority faculty receive an extra semester of leave. "Being required to chiefly and constantly ‘serve' and ‘represent' in the interest of administrative goals robs the imagination and interrupts any possibility of concerted thought," the letter says.

Princeton's Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity currently states that the school is located on land originally occupied by the Lenape Indians, but the letter's signatories are pressing the school to make a statement on its homepage. "Such a statement cannot be relegated to a special page about ‘inclusive Princeton,'" they write. They are proposing a statement that would read: "We acknowledge that the land of this University is the unceded traditional territory of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation."

A spokesman for the tribe did not respond to a request for comment.