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PFAW Seeking Access to Records of 'Concerned Alumni of Princeton'

Press Release
Josh Glasstetter
People For the American Way
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Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito touted membership in reactionary organization

People For the American Way has requested access to the records of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) stored at the Library of Congress in the archive of former National Review publisher William Rusher. The records should shed more light on the activities and ideology of the highly controversial organization and could sharpen questions about why Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito touted his membership in the group when applying for a promotion to a high level job in the Reagan Justice Department. The records are held at the Library of Congress under a restriction requiring Rusher’s approval to review the documents.

In 1985, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, then 35 and working in the Reagan solicitor general’s office, applied for a promotion to deputy assistant attorney general. He included a statement with his application in which he pledged allegiance to right-wing legal and judicial philosophy. Among the affiliations he used to establish his political bona fides was his membership in CAP.

“The question for senators to consider – and to ask – is why Samuel Alito would brag about his membership in an organization known for its fervent hostility to the inclusion of women and minorities at Princeton,” said People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas. “What does it tell us about his approach to issues like equal opportunity?”

“Even a preliminary review of CAP’s history demonstrates that it waged a campaign to turn back the clock at Princeton with ferocious zeal,” Neas said. “If Alito were to bring CAP’s values to the Supreme Court, he would help turn back the clock in America.”

A preliminary review of the organization’s history reveals that:

  • CAP complained about the admission of women to Princeton. T. Harding Jones, Alito’s classmate and CAP’s executive director in 1974 (two years after they graduated) told the New York Times that “Co-education has ruined the mystique and the camaraderies that used to exist. Princeton has now given into the fad of the moment, and I think it’s going to prove to be a very unfortunate thing.”1
  • CAP also complained about the admission of minorities to Princeton. An alumnus wrote in 1974 in CAP’s magazine that “We had trusted the admissions office to select young men who could and would become part of the great Princeton tradition. In my day, [Dean of Student Affairs] Andy Brown would have been called to task for his open love affair with minorities.”2
  • CAP repeatedly warned that the admission of women and minorities would undermine the university. A 1973 CAP fundraising letter claimed that “a student population of approximately 40 percent women and minorities will largely vitiate the alumni body of the future.”3 And in 1974, T. Harding Jones claimed that “Annual giving has been hurt very substantially by the equal-access vote.”4
  • CAP supported a quota system to ensure that the vast majority of students would continue to be men. Asa Bushnell, then chairman of CAP, told the New York Times in 1974 that “Many Princeton graduates are unhappy over the fact that the administration has seen fit to abrogate the virtual guarantee that 800 [out of roughly 1,100] would continue to be the number of males in each freshman class.”5
  • CAP opposed affirmative action for women and minorities but supported affirmative action for athletes and the children of alumni.6 For instance, CAP principal John Thatcher argued in 1974 that “Academic weakness below the projected graduating level, or character defect, should be the only grounds for rejecting athletes.”7
  • Prospect magazine, published by CAP, specialized in reactionary rhetoric and ad hominem attacks. Feminists were labeled “frumps and freaks” and “a 1983 item on sexual harassment was illustrated with a female student sunning herself in a bikini.”8 In 1983, a column in the Prospect had the following to say about international students at Princeton: “I suppose the new students I am observing all had the required SAT scores to get into Princeton, but I really do not believe it for a minute. They are here on the basis of a theory.”9 In 1984 – the year before Alito touted his CAP membership in his job application letter – “the magazine observed the death of a female coal miner who won her job through a discrimination suit and concluded, ‘Sally Frank, take note.’” 10 Sally Frank was a Princeton student who took legal action to open the doors of exclusive, all-male eating clubs at the university to women.
  • CAP advocated a quota system to ensure that humanities and social science departments hired right wing professors.11

Further background on CAP is available on request.

1 Lepeles, Maxine. “Conservative Alumni Act to Alter Princeton Image” New York Times, 3/3/1974

2 Dujack, Stephen. “The Contradictions of CAP” Princeton Alumni Weekly 4/9/1986

3 Dujack, Stephen. “The Contradictions of CAP” Princeton Alumni Weekly 4/9/1986

4 Lepeles, Maxine. “Conservative Alumni Act to Alter Princeton Image” New York Times, 3/3/1974

5 Lepeles at 4

6 Dujack at 3

7 Dujack at 3

8 Dujack at 3

9 Dujack at 3

10 Dujack at 3

11 Lepeles at 4