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Students demand Princeton preemptively bar Sen. Ted Cruz ’92 from on-campus recognition

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

A number of undergraduates and alumni are calling on the University to formally and preemptively abstain from honoring Sen. Ted Cruz ’92’s (R-Texas) legacy on campus. The group is also calling on President Eisgruber to consider revoking Cruz’s degree and calling on Cruz to resign from the Senate.

The petition, created by Joshua Faires ’20, has 1,529 signatures at the time of publication, many of which are from students and alumni. It represents one of several calls for action against Cruz following his objections to the certification of election results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania and amplification of debunked voter fraud claims before the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol Building.

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A separate petition organized by a member of the American Whig-Cliosophic Society calls on the organization to consider revoking the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service awarded to Cruz in 2016. The Society’s right-leaning Cliosophic Party recently released a statement in opposition to such a move.

While other University-affiliated statements on Cruz’s actions, such as a statement from members of the Class of 1992 condemning their classmate, focus on denouncing the Senator himself, Faires’ petition is directed towards University administration with explicit demands for University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83.

“The biggest benefit Princeton has towards saying something is that our president is a constitutional scholar. He himself dedicates his life to this document,” Faires told The Daily Princetonian. “So I figured the best thing to do then would be to lean in on this privilege and provide a voice for multiple students, multiple members of Princeton to say this is wrong.”

Eisgruber himself condemned the insurrection in a blog post on the day of the attack, but his post made no explicit mention of Cruz. University Spokesperson Ben Chang told the ‘Prince’ that Eisgruber did not intend to comment on the actions of individual alumni.

The petition drafted by Faires draws parallels to the University’s decision to remove the name of Woodrow Wilson, Class of 1879, from the School of Public and International Affairs and what is now First College, and it calls specifically on the Committee on Naming to bar his name from being honored in the future.

Nazdar Ayzit ’23 told the ‘Prince’ she signed on because she “simply cannot see this alumnus ‘in the nation's service and the service of humanity’ despite the great political power bestowed on him” and does not think Cruz should be honored as an exemplary alumnus.

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In explaining his reasoning behind the push to ban Cruz preemptively, Faires pointed to Cruz’s prominence.

“He will forever remain a key figure in Princeton's history,” he noted. “The University should actively pursue its goals of an inclusive campus in the service of all nations by denouncing his actions in a way that speaks directly to the campus culture. A key part of that culture is honorary titles.”

The University’s policy on honorary degrees notes explicitly that holding public office is not in itself “sufficient reason for consideration,” and the Policy on Naming of Programs, Positions, and Spaces is governed by a “comparable to or, indeed, higher” standard. It also explicitly notes that honorific naming should take into account the University’s aspirations relating to diversity and inclusion.

Since its inception, the Committee on Naming has recommended recognizing Nobel Laureate and former professor Toni Morrison; former fugitive slave and prominent campus vendor James Collins Johnson; the formerly enslaved missionary, teacher, and Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church founder Betsey Stockton; former University landscape architect Beatrix Farrand; and prominent Black alumnus and surgeon Robert J. Rivers Jr. ’53.

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In September, following the University Board of Trustees’ removal of Wilson’s name from prominent buildings, the University assembled a trustee-level ad hoc committee to develop “general principles for scenarios where it might be appropriate for the University to remove or contextualize the names and representations of historical individuals honored on the Princeton campus.”

Though the Board opted to remove Wilson’s name, the University has never issued a public, preemptive ban on honoring a graduate.

Asked if Eisgruber would comment on the petitions or Cruz’s role in the events of Jan. 6, Chang reiterated the University president’s stance.

“We believe 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,” he told the ‘Prince.’ 

Some students — including at least one signatory of the petition — were particularly skeptical of the demand to consider rescinding Cruz’s degree. While the Academic Standing policy website states no explicit rule for revoking undergraduate degrees, the Graduate School website notes that degrees can be revoked “because of a serious disciplinary matter related to work performed or submitted for the degree.”

“I am of the opinion that a (non-honorary) degree should be revoked if and only if it is shown to have been obtained fraudulently, the student was admitted fraudulently, or the student otherwise egregiously broke the school’s code of conduct,” one wrote anonymously in the Tiger Confessions# Facebook group, a popular group among undergraduate students.

“His actions beyond his academic career would be grounds for other consequences but not revoking his [undergraduate] degree,” wrote Andy Zheng ’20 within the Tiger Confessions# comments.

Asked to comment, Clio Party chair Matthew Wilson ’24 described the petition and its demands altogether as not serious and not worthy of a serious response.

However, other students still voiced their support for the petition despite doubts about certain demands.

Evan Bell ’18 worked on an early draft of the petition and shared it across social media. In one comment, he wrote, “Please consider signing and sharing among your Princeton network, even if you're skeptical of some of the specific demands (as I am).”

Specifically, Bell told the ‘Prince’ he was skeptical of the demand to consider revoking Cruz’s undergraduate degree, given they are awarded “based on meeting certain academic expectations and requirements.”

Bell added, however, that he felt even those who were concerned with some demands should still sign the petition.

“Precisely because I think it’s exceedingly unlikely for the University to consider it [rescinding Cruz’s degree], that’s why I think people who are reluctant, because they don’t fully agree with those demands, should still sign onto it,” he noted.

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