Alito and Concerned Alumni of Princeton

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It's not news to me that Alito was associated with Concerned Alumni of Princeton during the 80s. This issue came up over a month ago at the Volokh Conspiracy. The worry here is that CAP started out by opposing Princeton's acceptance of women and minorities and eventually favoring affirmative action for white males. Some of the Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee are planning to make a big deal of this, according to Jollyblogger. A few points David brings out along the way are worth remembering. Alito says he joined the organization because they were at the time protesting the banning of ROTC at Princeton. The senators intend to question Alito's commitment to racial equality by putting forth a quote from someone else that he might not endorse. Someone published in a CAP newsletter that research shows black people to have lower intelligence than white people, qualifying the statement with "for whatever reason". That qualification indicates that it may well be environmentally caused or even caused by white racism, which quite possibly (for all the quote says) might prevent black children from developing their intellectual potential. So the quote itself isn't necessarily racist and even goes out of its way to be clear that it's consistent with favoring racial equality. So I just can't see how a quote by someone that he might not endorse that doesn't even necessarily amount to racism to begin with is supposed to be bad, even if he happened to support some endeavor the group was doing.

But one question no one seems to be addressing is whether the group when he joined it was really the same group as when it was founded. The group started in favor of affirmative action for white males, back when Princeton was first integrated across male-female lines. How likely is it that the group was still focused on that hopeless agenda by the mid-80s when Alito was talking about his support for the group? I suspect the group wasn't really about the same sorts of things. Some people are talking as if joining or supporting a group that started for racist reasons is automatically immoral and thus disqualifying of someone for a position on the Supreme Court. If that were true, Justice Ginsburg should never have made it onto the bench. She was heavily involved with Planned Parenthood, which started as a racist eugenics organization seeking to prevent black people and other undesirables from reproducing too much (and they've succeeded remarkably, even if the current organization doesn't endorse that particular goal in the same way or for the same reasons). Senators Schumer, Kennedy, and Feinstein should shut up rather quickly once that comparison is made.

Update: I wanted to add a few pieces of information that have come out in the hearings. One is that the publication this quote was taken from is not a newsletter of the organization but more like a journal. There's a disclaimer in the front that says views published in it are not necessarily endorsed by the organization. It's more like the journal of the American Medical Association (to use Senator Coburn's example) than a newsletter of an organization expressing its own views. So this really and truly is a private individual not expressing the group's viws.

Second, at least two people have gone on record about what the group's official stance on the co-education issue was. It was that they didn't want quotas. It wasn't opposition to co-education. Quotas have since been declared unconstitutional. This is not a far right view. It's what's now the law of the land, and a fairly liberal Supreme Court gave it to us. Individuals within the organization may have endorsed more extreme views, and some of them seem to have published those views in this journal the organization ran, but that has little bearing on the organizations official stance on anything.

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Update 1/7/05 - 10:20pm - see Jeremy Pierce's post for some excellent comments (much better than mine) on this matter. According to Drudge, the democrats are war-gaming for Samuel Alito's confirmation hearings and they think they have a silver bullet Read More

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The strategy, if you want to call it that by those opposing Alito, is weak. It's so weak I call it "The CAP Strategy Against Alito is a Byrd CAP Strategy"

On the issue that they attack, Alito seems very progressive based on his stewardship of the "Boundaries of Privacy in American Society" task force. Things must be looking mighty bad in the anti-Alito camp for this to be their strategy. It looks for all I can tell to be an effort to Bork him from within the republican party like Meirs. That's not going to happen, and it is telling of just how weak the argument against Alito is from those who oppose and are organized against his nomination..............................

The Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) was a group of politically conservative former Princeton University students that existed between 1972 and 1986. CAP was founded to bring the ROTC back to the Princeton campus after the ROTC building was burned down by anti-war radicals and the Princeton adminstration refused to rebuild it. CAP opposed affirmative action designed to increase minority attendance at the Ivy League institution, though it supported quotas guaranteeing spots for male students, and for the children of alumni. [1] CAP also exhibited strong support for Princeton's eating clubs, and its founders opposed the admission of women to the university. [2]

The existence of the organization attracted wide notice during the nomination of former CAP member Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States, as Alito included his membership in the organization on a job application to work in the Reagan administration in 1985[3]. Former Senator Bill Bradley, a Democrat, was a member until 1973, when he resigned because of the tone of the organization's magazine, Prospect. Republican Senator Bill Frist, at the time a recent Princeton alumnus, contributed to a report that labeled the organization as far-right and extremist.


--From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Judge Napolitano was one of its founders, and he says they never as a group opposed coeducation. They opposed quotas.

I don't believe there have ever been outright quotas guaranteeing spots for alumni, though children of alumni have usually been given more weight among equally qualified students. I may be wrong about that, but that's what I've understood that sort of policy to be about.

I don't trust any Wikipedia entry on a politically loaded issue, especially during a time when the issue is very current. Anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry, and the controls on such editing aren't immediate. The fact that the citation for some of this information is People for the American Way (a partisan group known for making politically loaded statements) and that the entry itself is written in a way that already loads the issues makes me even more suspect.

The issue as I see it is that women were now attending Princeton, which forced the university to get bigger or increase their standards and thus not accept the kind of men they would otherwise have accepted. CAP opposed decreasing the number of men, which would have meant increasing the size of the student body. That doesn't constitute quotas in the standard sense unless their commitment to the size of the male population is independent of how many qualified men apply. My guess is that they were seeking to continue to have qualified men accepted in similar numbers as in the past, not that they wanted men accepted with lower standards than women.

As the Wikipedia entry now stands, the Interpretation of Views section is much more fair to the issues:

Because CAP's politics were very different from the university in which it existed, its existence and rhetoric had several sometimes contradictory interpretations. For example, many people suggest that one of its central precepts was opposition to coeducation (i.e. opposition to Princeton admitting women) and that the group in its early years regarded itself as a defender of an all male, explicitly Christian Princeton.
Others reject that characterization and argue that the group was not generally opposed to any group's admission to Princeton; they say CAP simply opposed admission quotas to fulfil the university's affirmative action goals. CAP did support quotas preserving admission spots for males, however. In 1974, the CAP chairman said 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."

I do have reservations even about calling that a quota, as I've argued, but it's better than how the Democratic senators have been portraying the group. What they've been doing is just immoral, and it's even more shameful that they've continued it after their information has been corrected in three or four different ways.

I've edited the Wikipedia entry. The relevant section now reads:

CAP did support preserving admission spots for males, however.... Some would describe this as a quota for males, though it must be acknowledged that this sort of quota does not use lower standards (as affirmative action for minorities normally does due to the lower percentage of minority applicants meeting the usual standards). This sort of quota merely keeps the standards as they had always been, rather than increasing the standards to allow for the same size student body to be retained while accepting women.

I think that's much more fair. We'll see if someone comes along and edits it further. I wouldn't be surprised if someone does, given the amount of attention this is currently receiving (e.g. this post has been viewed many hundreds of times since last night).

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