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Matt Franck, University Federalist Society advisor, speaking at Antonin Scalia roundtable in Feb. 2016. Courtesy of James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.

The Federalist Society, a nationwide organization of conservatives and libertarians with chapters in hundreds of law schools across the country, now has a chapter at the University. The University has become the third undergraduate institution after Rice University and Hillsdale College with a chapter of the organization.

Typically, the Federalist Society only has a presence in law schools, but a collaboration between Akhil Rajasekar ’21 and Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, made the University’s chapter possible. 

Akhil Rajasekar ’21and junior U.S. Senator for South Carolina Tim Scott (R). Courtesy Akhil Rajasekar.

“I realized that I wanted to be part of the society, but realized that I couldn’t because we didn’t have a chapter in Princeton as we don’t have a law school,” Rajasekar said. 

So Rajasekar reached out to the Federalist Society, which adheres to the philosophy of constitutional originalism, and asked if the University could start a chapter, and the society said yes.

“We got Professor Robert George as the faculty advisor, as well as Keith Whittington and Matt Franck of the Witherspoon Institute,” Rajasekar said.

The University’s chapter is now fully functional and accepting members, with 40 students already in the Society. All of its events will be open to everyone, and interested students can stay updated through the club’s Twitter account (@PrincetonFedSoc).

The Federalist Society, founded in 1982, has been influential in screening Supreme Court nominees for Republican presidents such as former president George W. Bush and current president Donald Trump. The conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, called the Federalist Society “the premier vetting institution for Republican judicial appointments to the federal judiciary.”

Rajasekar said one of the primary goals of the chapter will be representing viewpoints that may be underrepresented in the University community. He said the chapter plans to further discourse by bringing in speakers and hosting panels and debates.

According to Rajasekar, the Society’s specific focuses include the Constitution, the rule of law, the “principles of American justice,” and the Declaration of Independence. 

Leaders of College Democrats and College Republicans talked to the ‘Prince’ about the introduction of the Federalist Society on campus. 

“We value and we uphold the value of free speech. They have every right to be here and talk and discuss the issues that are relevant to their group,” said Sebastian Quiroz ’20, the president of the College Democrats. “That being said, of course many of the values that are upheld by the Federalist Society, not the least of which is a textual interpretation of the constitution, are antithetical to the values of most of the members of the Princeton College Democrats.” 

Quiroz told the ‘Prince’ that he welcomes debates on legal issues with the Federalist Society chapter and extended an invitation to the Society to debate legal issues. 

Quiroz is a member of the ‘Prince’ editorial board.

Will Crawford ’20, the president of College Republicans, was enthusiastic about the group’s potential to bring in speakers to promote ideas about constitutionalism. Though there are no plans for collaborations between the Federalist Society and College Republicans, he thinks it’s likely that there will eventually be opportunities for doing so. 

“In my experience in the past organizing speakers and smaller group things like discussions, usually if there are other similar kinds of groups that would be interested in co-hosting, people are usually enthusiastic about that,” he said. 

The Federalist Society will be hosting its first event on Nov. 7, featuring former clerk of Justice Antonin Scalia, Ed Whelan.

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