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Sen. Cruz ’92 pushes back after 400 classmates condemn his actions as attempt to “undermine democracy”

<h6>Michael Vadon / <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:MichaelVadon" target="_self">Wikimedia Commons</a></h6>
Michael Vadon / Wikimedia Commons

Members of the Class of 1992 have put forth a statement denouncing classmate Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 (R-Texas) for his decision to challenge the certification of electors for the 2020 presidential election and amplify false claims of voter fraud. 

Shortly after Cruz objected to the certification of Arizona’s Electoral College vote count, pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building, resulting in five deaths. The letter, signed by 400 of Cruz’s classmates, refers to the Senator’s challenging of the results as an attempt “to undermine democracy and our Constitution.”

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The message borrows language from a similar condemnation signed by over 900 graduates and affiliates of Harvard Law school — where Cruz received his J.D. degree — originally published several days before the election certification took place.

The Class of 1992 letter, initially published on Monday, includes signatures from alumni on both ends of the political spectrum. However, the petition’s validity was called into question by a representative of Cruz.

“Last week, Sen. Cruz called for a debate in the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Cruz’s spokesman wrote in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “To suggest that Sen. Cruz’s actions were unconstitutional is disappointing and dishonest, at a time when this country needs to come together and heal.”

Cruz’s spokesperson also emphasized the Senator’s condemnation of the attack on the Capitol building. Some critics — including the Texas Democratic Party and other Democratic lawmakers — have accused Cruz of inciting the violence, though the Class of 1992 letter did not make this claim. 

The statement did, however, criticize Cruz for “unconscionably” sending out a fundraising appeal “during an attack on the electoral vote certification process on Jan 6, 2021.” The automated message asked if supporters would “stand with” the Senator in rejecting electors.

An unnamed Cruz aide told the ‘Prince’ that Cruz was not aware of the fundraising message.

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“This was not approved by the senator to be sent out, it was an automated text from a firm,” the aide wrote. “In no way, shape, or form would he ever have approved it to go out when it did. He was dismayed by what happened at the Capitol and called on those storming the Capitol to stop the violence.”

Cruz also responded to critiques of this text in a Jan. 7 Tweet.


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Class of 1992

The Class of 1992, like all alumni classes, is a 501(c)(3) organization and thus prohibited as an official entity from making political statements.

In an email to the ‘Prince’, class president Duncan Van Dusen ’92 noted, “This statement is not an official communication on behalf of the Class of 1992 or its volunteer officers; our Class does not make political statements.”

Despite this, ’92 alumni said they felt it was their responsibility to speak out and assert that Cruz’s actions were inconsistent with the educational values the University instills and the University’s informal motto “Princeton in the nation's service and the service of humanity.”

After observing repeated mentions of the University’s name alongside Cruz in the press, Ann Kelly Bolten ’92 said, “It sort of felt like the world is getting some sort of perception about Princeton that is not aligned with my experience going to Princeton.”

“It felt like a very American moment, and it also felt like a very Princeton moment,” she added.

Members of the Class of 1992, including Elise Harris ’92, who authored the petition, repeatedly affirmed their view that outrage against Cruz’s actions was not a partisan reaction.

“I tried to use a statement that was as neutral as possible and as narrow as possible. This is about democracy rather than any particular policy perspective,” Harris said.

Moreover, many of these individual alumni said their decision to sign the statement was motivated by factors that extended beyond their personal affiliation with the University.

In an email to the ‘Prince’, Tally Parham Casey ’92, a former F-16 fighter pilot, wrote “Having also taken an oath to support and defend our constitution, I understand what it means to sacrifice personal interest and politics to that commitment.”

Renea Henry ’92, a co-founder of Tiger Sisters, a Facebook group for African American women alumni, said that Cruz’s invoking of the 1877 compromise, which in her mind represented a retreat of reconstruction in the United States, was a turning point in her decision to support the statement. 

University Response

In the wake of Cruz’s actions, several alumni from a wide range of class years have submitted letters to Princeton Alumni Weekly (PAW), some suggesting the University take action by publicly censuring Cruz, stripping him of his class number, or banning him from speaking on campus. 

Similarly, a student petition in circulation asks that the University condemn Ted Cruz and bar him from receiving future honorary titles. 

However, some members of the Class of 1992 were hesitant to demand these specifics actions. 

“I really trust Princeton University’s leadership and President Eisgruber to do whatever’s right,” Bolten wrote. She added that she is not opposed to Cruz being invited to campus to take part in dialogue and debate in the wake of the controversy.

“I would trust the students at Princeton to be able to ask Ted Cruz about his actions and hear what he has to say,” she wrote. “I definitely think more debate, not less, is what's needed here. It would be absolutely appropriate for him to come and hear from people who supported him and people who were outraged.” 

On Jan. 6, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 condemned the acts of terrorism at the Capitol on the President’s blog

While not mentioning Ted Cruz by name, Eisgruber wrote, “There is no place in a democracy for what transpired today in Washington. Such lawless behavior is unacceptable and weakens our country. Every leader has a responsibility to oppose it and never to stoke or encourage it.” 

University Spokesperson Ben Chang told the ‘Prince’ that Eisgruber does not intend to comment on the actions of individual alumni.

“President Eisgruber believes that the role of a university president should be to articulate the values of the institution, not to pass judgement upon which alumni may be falling short of those values,” Chang wrote.

Looking Forward 

On Jan. 7, the office of Sen. Cruz released a statement condemning the acts of terrorism and calling for a peaceful transition of power. Bolten was unsatisfied.

“I don’t think it's enough to condemn something you helped facilitate,” Bolten said in response to the statement. “I think you have to acknowledge your role in those actions and remedy that.”

Harris voluntarily removed the petition from the ’92 Facebook group at the request of moderators to divert political conversations away from the page. However, she and a group of volunteers are now compiling the over 800 emails of the remaining members of the class in an effort to reach those not on Facebook. 

While also noting the unique connection the Class of 1992 has to Cruz, Harris remarked, “We feel personally sullied by this, but it's not really about us. I think there needs to be a university-wide discussion.”

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