Elimination of Princeton Civil Rights Commission will take focus off of civil rights

By Fern Spruill

Dear Editor:

I write as chair of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission to express my opposition to the proposed ordinance combining the Civil Rights Commission, Affordable Housing Board, and   Human Services Commission.

This proposal will not make the commissions more effective.  It will do exactly the opposite.  The Civil Rights Commission is composed of volunteers who have jobs and families.  We receive no financial support from the municipality.  There are important issues we do not have the time or resources to address as it is.

Giving the responsibilities of three commissions to a single commission will dramatically reduce the time available for addressing civil rights.

If the members of Council making this proposal had taken the time to speak to me they would have known that it would make the Civil Rights Commission far less effective.

It took years of time and effort to get Council to create the Civil Rights Commission.  Even then, the Commission was given no authority to anything more than make recommendations to Council.  Efforts by the Commission to play an active advisory role, such as by offering suggestions on how to implement our municipal commitment to equity, have been rejected.

I had hoped that Council and the Commission would learn to work together for the benefit of the entire community.

Instead members of Council are attempting to marginalize the Commission still further by making it part of a new body that will have much less time to devote to civil rights.

It is a sad day when the greatest obstacle the Civil Rights Commission faces in carrying out our mission is the opposition of our own Council.


Fern M. Spruill


  1. What is the reasoning behind this? I’m with Mrs. Spruill and am interested to see what other option is available.

  2. What is the ongoing need for a civil rights commission in Princeton anyway? What civil rights does anyone lack?

  3. I would like to learn a few of the CRC’s suggestions on how to implement our municipal commitment to equity that were rejected.

  4. The commission used to review complaints by residents about how they were treated by police and other civil rights issues related to discrimination. It is naive to assume there is no discrimination in Princeton. Ask people who have grown up here and they will tell you how it really is. The town gives lip service to equality and progressive Democratic values, as evidenced by this latest move.

  5. Thank you for sharing this important letter. What reason has the town council given for “streamlining” these commissions into one? Why now? Why at all? What recourse do folks opposed to this have?

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