After internal review, Princeton acquits Sam Wang, but does not release a report
Princeton University has cleared Princeton Gerrymandering Project Director Sam Wang of allegations he manipulated data as an adviser to the independent tie-breaker for the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission after an internal investigation , but has not released a report detailing its findings.
Michael E. Hotchkiss, a spokesperson for Princeton University, told an election law blog that an ad hoc committee of faculty members “carefully reviewed the research misconduct allegations filed against the Dr. Wang and concluded that these allegations were without merit.”
The dean of the faculty accepted the committee’s findings and the matter is now considered closed,” Hotchkiss said. “All other investigations involving Dr. Wang have been completed and closed with no findings of policy violations.”
It’s unclear how thorough Princeton was in its internal investigation of its own homeroom professor, as they never interviewed New Jersey’s party leaders.
“Of course, Princeton didn’t reach out to Republicans,” said former GOP chairman Doug Steinhardt, who co-chaired the congressional redistricting panel.
Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr. also said he hadn’t heard from anyone at Princeton.
“They haven’t spoken to anyone on the Democratic side,” he said.
At least one former Princeton Gerrymandering Project staff contacted today said he had not been included in the internal investigation.
The New Jersey Globe reported in April that Princeton was conducting an internal investigation after its staff alleged it rigged data to fit its own agenda on a new Congressional map, and that workplace harassment issues were causing the subject of an investigation.
At the time, Hotchkiss said that “generally, the University avoids commenting on ongoing investigations out of concern for fairness to those involved.”
But four days later, Hotchkiss backtracked, saying an initial review showed there were “no credible allegations of data manipulation” on the New Jersey map. He declined to say who performed the initial review.
Accusations that he mistreated his staff prompted Princeton University to order Wang not to speak directly with his staff while he was a court-appointed tiebreaker adviser for the Legislative Redistricting Commissions. New Jersey, according to multiple memoranda, letters and emails. from the Department of Human Resources at Princeton University obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
Complaints against Wang were filed before and during his time as an adviser to independent congressional redistricting tie-breaker, retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr.
At the time, Wallace said he was unaware that Princeton was looking into Wang’s behavior.
“I’m not aware of any investigation,” Wallace said in an email to the New Jersey Globe in March.
Three Princeton Gerrymandering Project staff, all speaking on condition of anonymity, objected to a report Wang wrote about the New Jersey house quarters redesign, saying it was biased.
The New Jersey Globe reported in January that staffers at the Princeton Gerrymandering Project had quietly given Democrats valuable feedback that would ultimately play into their final submission of the map: that Republicans were doing a good job of limiting the division of cities and municipalities and that the Democrats had to do better.
Staff members express concern over the conflict between academic integrity and the source of funding for the Princeton Gerrymandering Project. They added further confirmation to another New Jersey Globe report that major funding came from donors with ties to national and state Democrats.
Princeton University ordered employees of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and EIL to stop speaking with Wang in early January, before the legislative redistricting process began.
On January 21, Mary Beth Larkin, senior human resources manager at Princeton, sent an email notifying all employees that Wang had been asked to communicate with his staff only in writing, copying human resources on all emails. mails “so that the University has a continuous follow-up”. record of their requests and the staff’s responses.
Larkin also ordered that Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Oliver Avens be copied as well.
“We ask Professor Wang to provide clear instructions to each staff member he contacts for an inquiry or assignment, and to specify a reasonable time frame for responding or processing his inquiries whenever possible,” said Larkin said. “The University expects all EIL employees to provide appropriate and substantive responses to Professor Wang’s inquiries within the specified timeframes.”
A February email from Larkin directed Wang’s team on how the legislative redistricting tie-breaker, former state appeals court judge Philip Carchman, would arrange what she described as “Hotel Week”, a marathon session of meetings between the two parties at the Princeton Marriot in Plainsboro.
Wang was an inactive player in the legislative redistricting process and Carchman was unaware of the investigation, the New Jersey Globe has learned. The result was a transaction card brokered by Carchman and the two parties.
Larkin designated an EIL employee – not Wang – to assign tasks to staff and designated a person to “serve as a channel for communications with team members whose involvement is required”. She ordered staff members to “direct any questions regarding these assignments” to that person.
On March 1, 2022, Larkin informed EIL staff by letter that the investigation of Wang was ongoing.
“The University continues to take the investigation seriously,” Larkin said. “Pending the investigation, the University is also evaluating EIL’s operations more broadly.”
Six days later, Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president of human resources at Princeton, told employees in a memorandum that “the actions outlined in Ms. Larkin’s letter are being implemented at the direction of the university, and not from Professor Wang”.
Sullivan-Crowley ordered the Princeton Gerrymandering Project to immediately cease entering into or entering into any grant or gift arrangements to fund their work or related projects, or hiring additional employees or interns, “in particular, to facilitate the completion of ongoing workplace complaint investigations and the evaluation of EIL’s operations.
She also ordered them to “withdraw or rescind” any offers to interns or employees that may have been made or accepted. The summer internship program has been “paused”.
“When Professor Wang was tasked with implementing these measures, he was also reminded of his obligation to adhere to the University’s policy against retaliation,” Sullivan-Crowley said.
Sullivan-Crowley also said Wang was reminded to follow Princeton’s policies regarding the protection of data and information, including analytical work and computer records.
In March, Hotchkiss dodged questions about details about the Wang investigation.
“Members of the university community are always free to raise concerns about their school or work environment. When concerns are brought to its attention, the University investigates them in accordance with its policies and takes action to address them, as appropriate,” Hotchkiss said. “While a review is in progress, the University may implement interim measures as it deems necessary to ensure that the investigation is thorough, impartial and fair, and that the affected work or teaching environment is managed appropriately.”