CAP's ROTC advocacy died down in 1980s
Samuel Alito '72's membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) was the subject of fiery exchanges in this week's Senate hearings, during which the Supreme Court nominee maintained that he joined the group to promote the on-campus presence of ROTC.
But discussions surrounding that claim have largely neglected the evolution of CAP's focus and whether on-campus military training was a priority on the organization's agenda at the time.
A review of documents in University archives and interviews with alumni suggests that keeping ROTC at Princeton was indeed a priority for CAP when it was founded in 1972. By the 1980s, however, ROTC appears to have disappeared as a major issue for both CAP and the University. And by 1985, when Alito listed the group membership on his Justice Department job application, the organization was largely defunct.
Former CAP board member Andrew Napolitano '72, a Fox News judicial analyst and former New Jersey Superior Court judge, said Thursday that maintaining the ROTC program on campus was one of CAP's "longterm projects" throughout its existence, even if maintaining on-campus military training was not the "principal thrust" of the group.
"I don't think that project saw fruition until [after] CAP's demise in the mid-'80s," when Army ROTC's presence on campus was finally secure, Napolitano said.
Supreme Court coverage in today's 'Prince':— Alito disavows conservative alumni group — Senators probe Princeton's past — Divided campus reacts to Alito — Liberal advocacy group VP critcizes Alito
Membership in CAP required minimal commitment. In the fall of 1980, alumni could join CAP by donating a minimum of $10, according to an advertisement in the group's magazine. Depending on the size of the tax-deductible donation, the alumnus would be designated as one of five types of members: Associated, Sustaining, Leadership, Charter or Cornerstone. Cornerstone members had to donate at least $1,000. For $8 annually, alumni could subscribe to Prospect without joining CAP.
Alito said during questioning Wednesday that he did not recall receiving Prospect or renewing his CAP membership, suggesting that he must have joined around the time he listed the group on a 1985 job application. He maintains that he did not know about discriminatory pieces in Prospect, which some senators read from during testimony, and joined to protest the expulsion of ROTC from campus.
Alito joined ROTC as a sophomore at the University in 1969. During his junior year, the campus Army, Navy and Air Force units were expelled and Alito finished his ROTC work at Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey.
Asked whether he thought Alito joined CAP because of ROTC, Napolitano said he couldn't be certain. But Napolitano, who was in ROTC with Alito, said he himself "joined CAP out of a revulsion of what had happened to Sam and me," referring to widespread student activism in the late 1960s and the 1970s against the military. "I suspect Alito was similarly affected," Napolitano added.
Jerry Raymond '73, former chairman of Undergraduates for a Stable America, a conservative campus group at the time, said that keeping an on-campus military presence was a priority for CAP.
"ROTC was something important to CAP members," said Raymond, a current 'Prince' trustee and former editorial page staffer. "They wanted the benefits and opportunities of military careers to be available to Princeton students."
But another alumnus who was in ROTC with Alito, Chuck Howard '72, said he didn't remember CAP "having anything to do with ROTC."
Howard said he was never a member of CAP and that he remembers CAP "claiming it was a reaction to coeducation, minorities and that sort of thing" — not a counterforce to attempts to eliminate ROTC.
That any alumnus would join CAP solely because of his desire to support on-campus ROTC programs seems unlikely, Michael Zielenziger '77, former chairman of The Daily Princetonian, said in an interview.
"I don't think anyone would have joined if the primary concern was ROTC," Zielenziger said. "It's conceivable, but probably not at the top of the mind of someone who decided to sign up for CAP. I don't remember any conversation about CAP that was about ROTC ... I don't remember it being a major focus of CAP."
Zielenziger, who arrived on campus a year after Alito graduated, was interviewed for a May 23, 1977 New Yorker article about CAP, which has been mentioned in various press reports since the news of Alito's membership in the group broke. The article traces CAP's first five years without ever listing support of ROTC as one of the group's basic aims.
ROTC at Princeton
The period during and after the Vietnam War was a turbulent one on campus, particularly for the on-campus military presence, ROTC.
Galvanized by controversy over the Vietnam War, a group of liberal activists called the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) actively protested ROTC. In March 1970, when Alito was a sophomore, 350 members of the group packed Nassau Hall to protest the University's support of ROTC and the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA), an on-campus military research group that worked closely with the Department of Defense. Students later firebombed the armory, where ROTC was housed.
Two years earlier — just months before Alito arrived on campus — some 1,100 participants marched on Nassau Hall to "protest the exclusion of students and faculty from university decision-making," according to an archived account from Mudd Manuscript Library. The report quoted the student government president at the time criticizing Nassau Hall's "arrogant dismissal of student and faculty demands" that the University cut its ties to the Defense Department.
The U.S. invasion of Cambodia in April 1970 led to coordinated student strikes from classes at Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and many other schools. Motivated by their opposition to a nationwide draft and the recently exposed My Lai massacre, many students across the country spoke out against military establishments on their own campuses.
The clash between ROTC supporters and the University reached a climax in May 1970. The University Council, during an "unprecedented seven-hour session attended by more than 1,100 people," voted to "determine ways to sever any association whatsoever" with ROTC, according to a report in the 'Prince.' The resolution also urged students to visit members of Congress and solicit antiwar support in the Princeton area, the article said.
The 1970-71 academic year, however, brought a shift in the University's attitude toward the military. After the Army, Navy and Air Force all announced plans to phase out their ROTC programs in September, the undergraduate student government sought a student referendum, crafted and supported by Napolitano, that would decide the future of ROTC at Princeton.
Less than a year after activists bombed the armory, 57 percent of the undergraduates who voted in the referendum supported keeping ROTC at Princeton. The University Board of Trustees voted in September to maintain an on-campus program. Then-Dean of the College Neil Rudenstine '56, who would become provost of Princeton and president of Harvard, said at the time that "campus opinion was a primary issue" in the trustees' decision to reinstate ROTC.
A one-year contract with Army ROTC began in the fall of 1972, but the Navy and Air Force left after the University imposed a requirement that military instructors no longer serve with the title or rank of full professors.
Alito was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army after graduating in 1972, and was on active duty from September to December 1975 after his graduation from Yale Law School. He was honorably discharged in 1980 from the Army Reserves with the rank of captain.
CAP and ROTC
By the time Prospect, CAP's magazine, was founded in 1972, Army ROTC had returned to campus, though its longterm status was uncertain. But between its inception and its last issue in 1985, Prospect rarely examined on-campus military activities.
The first issue included an unsigned article titled "The Prospects of ROTC," which outlined the University's recent actions against ROTC. These included eliminating credit-granting military science courses, which effectively made the program an extracurricular activity. (See full story from Prospect.)
The article, which was subtitled "Debate Drags on and on and ...," included a promise to "present in future issues information regarding the progress of a committee" charged with reviewing all ROTC activity on campus from 1972 to 1973. This was the duration of the Army ROTC contract created by University President William Bowen GS '58.
The 1972 Prospect article also stated that CAP opposed any further diminution of ROTC programs, and pledged to fight to protect Princeton ROTC. "Concerned Alumni of Princeton will take an active role in voicing alumni opinion on the matter," the article stated.
Eugene Lowe '71, then a Young Alumni Trustee, was one of four trustees on the committee studying the military's presence on campus. He said the University wanted to maintain its connection to ROTC so that Princeton undergraduates who wanted to join the military could do so. It was important, he said, "for the University to contribute to the officer corps, [with] people going into the army who had the kind of education Princeton had to offer."
Lowe returned to Princeton as dean of students from 1983 to 1993, when he was responsible for administrative oversight of ROTC. He said that though ROTC activities were consistently debated on campus during his years as an undergraduate and trustee, by the time he was in the administration — and around the time Alito cited his CAP membership — "ROTC [did not] stand out in my mind ... as a concern."
Later issues of Prospect included little reporting about ROTC, especially after 1975, as articles increasingly tackled national issues along with new on-campus problems: grade inflation, sexual health services and struggling varsity athletics teams, especially football and basketball, which had once been Princeton's pride.
In a March 1976 article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, CAP board member John Thatcher '53 listed the group's eight "basic principles and priorities." They included ensuring that the University's faculty was politically balanced, appointing University trustees who would be willing to dissent from the administration's views and gaining greater University independence from the federal government on issues of affirmative action and financial aid. There was no mention of ROTC.
— Includes reporting by Princetonian Senior Writer Chanakya Sethi.
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