Almost 20 years ago, the Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) collapsed like a modern House of Usher, so rotten from within from its own deceptions and peculiar madness that it could no longer sustain its own weight. For Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito '72, the reappearance of CAP in the national press last week because he included it on that now infamous 1985 job application must have been as shocking as the reappearance of Roderick Usher's dead twin sister in Poe's famous story.
Or, it should have been. At the very least, Judge Alito will have to explain to the Senate Judiciary Committee why he paid dues to an outfit whose modus operandi was deceit and dirty tricks. He will have to explain how he permitted himself to belong to an organization that was overtly racist and sexist for its entire 14-year existence — at times passionately so, too.
Even today, they lie. The Daily Princetonian reported Friday that CAP's longtime board member Andrew Napolitano '72 denies that the group opposed coeducation! This is like denying that the Catholic Church opposed abortion. Opposition to the presence of women at Princeton was CAP's central precept. Fortunately, your reporter quoted co-founder Shelby Cullom Davis '30 writing in Prospect, CAP's member magazine, in 1973, that he could not "envisage" a future student body of 40 percent women and minorities. More important, according to a 1977 New Yorker article, the group used the same language in its fund raising.
From its founding in 1972 till its unlamented demise in 1986, CAP was an organization that at first openly opposed full coeducation and the representative inclusion of minorities at Princeton, and then when those became "settled issues," continued its opposition to the mere presence of women and minorities at Princeton through tactics ranging from code words to open harassment.
Simultaneously, and with a blind eye to its perverse irony, CAP campaigned for affirmative action for alumni in the administration and faculty. CAP especially wanted affirmative action in the admissions office for its members' kids and for those student-athletes with bad grades and board scores.
CAP's nemesis was President William G. Bowen GS '58 — he was not an alumnus of the undergraduate school, though he had obtained his Ph.D. at Princeton and been a star faculty member for 17 years. CAP fought a guerilla war to undermine his ability to lead the university.
— In 1973, CAP mailed a letter to parents of freshmen implying that their sons and daughters were living in "cohabitation," rather than simply coeducational dorms.
— In 1975, a CAP board member tried to disrupt Annual Giving by writing to alumni in the business community to consider whether their gifts were "being used to undermine, subvert, and otherwise discredit the very businesses which are helping fund private education."
— In 1979, Prospect wrote that Princeton's athletic program under Bowen was "fast becoming the laughingstock of the whole Ivy League." In reality, Princeton had the best record in the Ivies.
The 'Prince' noted on Friday that Bill Bradley '65, a founding board member, quit in disgust when he saw the first issues of Prospect. In fact, after founding editor T. Harding Jones '72 left in 1976, CAP was never to find another Princeton grad to edit the publication. A succession of seven non-alumni filled out the final decade of Prospect's life, mercenaries paid to come into town and shoot up Nassau Hall for a year or so and then depart, while their rich sponsors sat in immunity.
In proof of the fact that CAP had no program other than harassment, it never brought its complaints to Nassau Hall. It refused to meet with President Bowen anywhere other than Bern, Switzerland, where Davis served as Ambassador. This, even though its other principal, Asa Bushnell '21, lived 400 yards from Nassau Hall.
So in 2005, we know that in 1985, Alito belonged to a group that was dedicated to pointlessly interfering with the functioning of a university because its student body had representative numbers of women and minorities, as required by law. A group which, for its entire existence, used as its only tactics dissembling and dirty tricks; the list above doesn't begin to do justice in describing the organization's destructiveness. A lot of people were hurt in the process. A great university was damaged.
That was 20 years ago. People change. The Samuel Alito of today should explain why we shouldn't be concerned about his membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton in 1985.
Stephen R. Dujack '76, a writer based in Alexandria, Virginia, was Associate Editor of the Princeton Alumni Weekly from 1976-80 and wrote about CAP in PAW and The Daily Princetonian.
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