Princeton has long had a reputation as the open-minded Ivy. High-school students enduring the arduous college-application process will come across articles describing Princeton as hospitable to conservatives, while the university’s president, Christopher Eisgruber, recently claimed, “We have civil discourse on this campus.” But Princeton’s reputation for relative openness is no longer deserved. In recent years, Princeton has embraced the imperatives of diversity, equity, and inclusion, making it an unwelcoming space for anyone—conservative or liberal, religious or secular—who happens to dissent.
“Thirty-one academic departments have DEI committees.”
Princeton’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are misnamed: They divide, exclude, and ostracize students of all political affiliations by rendering it socially dangerous to express any criticism of progressive mantras. Thirty-one academic departments have DEI committees, which could explain the land acknowledgements in syllabi and the deluge of departmental anti-racism statements that inform students what can and can’t be said in class. The university’s McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning offers recommendations for “inclusive teaching” and encourages instructors to “address blatantly offensive and discriminatory comments and hold students accountable for their behavior,” which seems to contravene the university’s adoption of the University of Chicago’s Free Speech Principles. Princeton’s Office of the Provost encourages departments to “develop a departmental procedure for the regular examination of syllabi to ensure the representation of a diverse array of scholars in the field” and to “redesign the curriculum to address inequities in access and retention.”
In the name of diversity, some requirements have been dropped and others have been added. In 2021, the Princeton classics department began “removing barriers to entry” and stopped requiring study of Greek or Latin, while the politics department introduced a Race and Identity track. The Provost recommends boosting the number of “underrepresented discipline-specific scholars and researchers to participate in departmental events.”
To ensure that faculty hiring results in a diverse work force, academic departments (possibly illegally) appoint a search officer who is the “only individual who can see the confidential individual, self-identified demographic data, including data about gender, race, and ethnicity,” and the officer should “monitor the recruitment and selection processes for tenure-track and tenured faculty positions.” The guidance states that “before the short list is sent to the associate dean for academic affairs or the deputy dean, the search officer must review it for gender and racial/ethnic representation.”
The search officer indicates to the search committee whether the applicant pool is diverse enough and recommends specific individuals without explicitly stating why, thereby circumventing federal and state laws prohibiting race-based hiring. Unsurprisingly, the university has documented a rise in Asian and black tenure and tenure-track faculty since fall 2018, while the white tenure and tenure-track faculty fell by 4.4 percent. Although Princeton doesn’t require diversity statements for hiring, the university has developed guidelines for departments that do wish to ask for such affirmations.
Despite these facts, many still claim that Princeton is insufficiently progressive. Since September 2021, three diversity, equity, and inclusion staff members have resigned from Princeton University alleging a lack of institutional, financial, and emotional support. Former employee J.T. Turner is a self-described “black queer nonbinary person” and a “DEI practitioner [of] 10 years” who was “hospitalized” due to the “highly macro-aggressive environment” in the athletics department. Jim Scholl, a former employee who is HIV-positive, recounted requesting a day off to receive the monkeypox vaccine in New York and being asked to join the morning meeting and work on the train, which supposedly displayed a “complete lack of empathy” for a “queer person trying to survive yet another plague.” The third former employee, Avina Ross, published the article titled “Angry Advocate Revelations,” describing how “exclusion, silencing, white guilt, compassion fatigue, and white assimilative practices” caused her “harm.”
When the _Daily Princetonian _reported on these resignations, conservatives ridiculed the staffers. Yet one important fact went largely unnoticed. According to the article, Princeton has “more than 70 university administrators whose primary responsibilities consist of diversity, equity, and inclusion.” That averages to about 1 DEI administrator for every 80 undergraduates.
When I inquired about the salary ranges for three DEI-related positions—including the position that Avina Ross held—the university clarified that these are “mid-senior level professional positions” and the expected salary ranges are “$75,000 plus for experienced professionals.” (For comparison, Princeton recently announced increasing graduate students’ fellowship and stipend to approximately $40,000.)
“Princeton’s diversity bureaucracy functions as an ideological surveillance system.”
Princeton’s diversity bureaucracy functions as an ideological surveillance system that regulates the social and academic cultures. Freshman orientation has compulsory events that include “diversity and inclusion” in the session’s title, as well as mandatory programs on LGBTQ identity, “mindfulness,” socioeconomic status, and the university’s history of systemic racism.
Undergraduates seeking a bachelor of the arts are required to complete a course in the “Culture and Difference” field, which can be satisfied this semester with courses like “Body Politics: Black Queer Visibility and Representation,” “Police Violence, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Covid-19 Pandemic," “Asian-American Psyches: Model Minority, Microaggressions and Mental Health,” and “Black + Queer in Leather: Black Leather/BDSM Material Culture.”
In 2020, Eisgruber, the Princeton president, asserted that “racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the university itself,” and he committed the institution to a wide range of anti-racism initiatives, such as “develop[ing] an institution-wide, multiyear action plan for supplier and contractor diversity […] and other business partners, including external investment managers.” This “action plan” quickly produced results: The university’s 2021-2022 DEI Report affirms that all $600 million worth of bond transactions were “led by a financial firm owned by people of color, women, veterans, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community.”
Princeton’s h.r. department offers a free “Inclusion & Diversity Certificate Program,” complete with courses like “Exploring White Identity,” “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts,” and “Bias, Privilege, Power, & Workplace Communications.” Moreover, there are “Brave Spaces” for discussions which focus on different themes, such as inclusive language, privilege, and microaggressions. HR events include “LGBT Book Club: ‘Postcolonial Love Poem’” and “What Just Happened? Racial Anxiety in Our Work Relationships.” There are at least 11 employee resource groups, such as the “Network of African-American Male Administrators at Princeton,” which seek to provide “the opportunity to network, share knowledge, build allyship, connection, and increase cultural dexterity.” Princeton’s h.r. department also provides a curated list of resources to combat racism: recommendations include How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and a 10-minute interview with Robin D’Angelo on her book White Fragility.
Extensive as the university’s diversity efforts are, they are insufficient for some undergraduates. Students demanded that the Lewis Center for the Arts implement biannual anti-racist, implicit-bias, and anti-oppression training for all faculty and staff. Students in the creative-writing department demanded affinity spaces for BIPOC students and clarified that “if spaces are created for white [creative writing] students, it is imperative that these spaces exist only as anti-racism learning spaces that are accountable to BIPOC.” Dance students demanded “deconstruct[ing] the association of ‘technique’ with whiteness” and “equitable auditions.”
Ultimately, the university’s allegedly “diverse” spaces are homogenous. They segregate—rather than integrate—individuals with different beliefs, backgrounds, and values. My class’s upcoming graduation in May will have at least five “affinity” celebrations, including an Asian Pacific Islander Desi American graduation, a Latinx graduation, Native American graduation, a Pan-African graduation, as well as Middle-Eastern, North-African, and Arab graduations. Graduation should be a time when all students are united by the accomplishment of completing four years of demanding education, rather than divided on the basis of immutable characteristics.
“‘Inclusive spaces’ immediately ostracize anyone who slightly disagrees with the orthodoxy.”
Meanwhile, the “inclusive spaces” immediately ostracize anyone who slightly disagrees with the orthodoxy du jour. For example, the university’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center expanded the mission of the Women’s Center to encompass males and “nonbinary” individuals, and the center released a statement condemning the Dobbs decision, thereby clarifying that the center isn’t a space for women, but for people—of either sex—who subscribe to a certain ideology.
Princeton formerly had the motto_ Dei Sub Numine Viget_, meaning “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” Now, Princeton seems to have embraced a new definition of Dei and updated the motto: _Under Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion She Flourishes. _Students who hold a different creed should consider applying elsewhere.