Stuart Taylor: Some May Say Sotomayor Is An Ungrateful Jerk For Criticizing Princeton

My gawd, the chip on his shoulder is becoming a boulder. Stuart Taylor writes:

Princeton University was guilty of "an institutional pattern of discrimination" against Chicanos and Puerto Ricans, then-sophomore Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a letter published in the May 10, 1974 edition of the student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. . . . Some may see the fact that Princeton awarded Sotomayor a summa cum laude degree and the prestigious Pyne Prize when she graduated in 1976 as evidence of her unparalleled brilliance in overcoming a "total absence of regard, concern, and respect" for people such as her.

And some may see Sotomayor's letter as evidence that she was predisposed to look for the worst, not the best, in the institution that had afforded her such opportunities. She now sits on Princeton's Board of Trustees.

Some may wonder if Stuart Taylor realizes what his writings say about him. Adam Serwer has more.

Speaking for me only

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    Does anyone doubt that what the letter said (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:36:42 PM EST
    was absolutely true?

    Absolutely not (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by lilburro on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:52:11 PM EST
    In my school's classes we often discussed the school's efforts at integrating women into campus and academic life (my school was an all men's school into the 80s).  There were lots of problems along the way.  TONS of problems.

    Just going to a school where most of the attendees are rich, white and or male can be a difficult experience...in large part because of the attitudes of the Stuart Taylors that attend.

    The Stuart Taylors refuse to acknowledge that they are part of massive support networks that forward their values - and yes, this is not just part of the social world but the classroom - in a classroom of 18 white male students and 7 minority students, who do you think is likely to call the shots as to what topics are appropriate, or direct conversations, or set the tone?  Has Taylor heard of the phrase "strength in numbers?"  And my numbers are probably too flattering to diversity efforts at Princeton at the time - make it 18 white male students, and perhaps 3 minority students.

    Someone else wrote about this...oh yeah:

    "I have found that at Princeton, no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be black first and a student second."

    Michelle Obama.


    Heh, she is exactly who popped into (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by nycstray on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:57:42 PM EST
    my mind when I was reading about Sotomayor's letters.

    Dawg forbid women/minorities express their opinions on how things are from their perspective.


    About Princeton's attempts at diversity (5.00 / 4) (#21)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:12:08 PM EST
    I love my sib's story about how he got in -- he was given to understand that Princeton saw him as adding to its diversity, despite him being a white male.

    Why?  Because he was a Midwesterner!

    And yes, the sib says that he also often was made to feel like quite the oddity there, too, with many questions about whether we, living in a major metro city, kept cows in our backyard, etc.  At least Sotomayor was from the Bronx, so she may have been spared some of that stoopidity -- but one can just imagine the comments that a woman, and of Puerto Rican descent, did have to hear.  

    I was in college in the early '70s as well, just before the numbers of women in colleges began to increase, and some of the stuff that I had said to me was just amazingly awful.  Same thing when interviewing on the job market in that era.


    I went to a very WASPy prep school (none / 0) (#14)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:57:46 PM EST
    so I don't need any convincing, myself. And the Taylors of the world think that any attempt at diversity is actually discrimination against white people

    I decided not to apply to Princeton (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by inclusiveheart on Fri May 29, 2009 at 06:03:59 PM EST
    because I found out that the students on financial aid were often given jobs at the eating clubs - or whatever they call them - and that if you worked at one of those clubs you couldn't also join them.  Seemed like a pretty convenient way of keeping "the rabble" at arm's length and that was a decade after Sotomayor was attending Princeton.  So no, I don't doubt her claim one bit actually.

    The other letters just make me like (none / 0) (#2)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:38:08 PM EST
    her more.

    This one (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by nycstray on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:54:31 PM EST

    I remember 1974. I was in awe of women going on to higher careers, and a tad intimidated (as in I wouldn't measure up in representing women well) Teen years and all   :)


    And in 1974, per some stats I saw (5.00 / 3) (#17)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:05:22 PM EST
    a while ago, women were something like only 8 percent of all law students in all law schools.

    I just read an article in my local paper this morn about a friend of Sotomayor's at Princeton, a woman who was three years ahead of her -- and in the first class with women there.  It clearly was not an easy time for any women there, and then add in Puerto Rican, and we all know how hard it must have been for her.

    Btw, my spouse reports from his bagel shop's table of conservatives that they are quite upset about her name and the attempts by media and others to learn to say it correctly, a la Spanish pronunciation.  As one of the idjits whom my spouse overheard had to say, Sotomayor just ought to learn to say her name in English. :-)


    {note to self . . . stay away from bagel shops} (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by nycstray on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:07:26 PM EST
    My mom tells stories of the early 80s (none / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:08:05 PM EST
    when women law graduates still found it difficult to get a job in the profession. Hiring partners openly mused that women might get pregnant and leave.

    Absolutely true, too. (5.00 / 5) (#22)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:17:48 PM EST
    Your mom and I were on the job market at the same time, then, when I was interviewing for professional positions -- and as noted above, some of the stuff that was said to me was just awful . . . not that I even realized it then, when we still were raising our own consciousness, as it were, before we had to get to work on that of another gender.

    I remember a job interview in which the guy kept asking me about my "health."  At the time, I answered with details of childhood surgeries and such, as he got more and more embarrassed by trying to say what he was trying to learn.  When I finally figured out that he was trying to figure out if the first woman in a top position there would fall apart once a month and get all moody, etc., I started laughing and couldn't stop.

    And he actually was one of the good guys.  He ended up hiring me -- because, he said, a sense of humor was needed to survive there.  He sure was right about that.  The other guys there -- and they all were guys there -- were idiots who said, on a daily basis, things that would win me a million-dollar lawsuit these days.


    Yes, that one (none / 0) (#15)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:58:59 PM EST
    The picture I'm getting of her is a very good one indeed. If I could be just a little bit more confident about where she is on privacy, I would be behind her 100%.

    me too (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:01:40 PM EST
    a little worried about William Donahue backing her but beyond that I am feeling pretty good.

    Oh, boy, Captain, (none / 0) (#40)
    by KeysDan on Sat May 30, 2009 at 10:53:14 AM EST
    just the mention of Mr. Donohue's support is pretty scary.  However, after reading the comments in the referenced Washington Times (oh, boy--once again), gave heart: many were throwing Bill under the bus for, to them, his wacky position.

    Absolutely true. (none / 0) (#3)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:42:47 PM EST
    A sib of mine went to Princeton two decades later and saw little improvement, actually.    

    Maybe it's better now (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by gyrfalcon on Fri May 29, 2009 at 11:54:16 PM EST
    but I simply can't imagine anybody going to Princeton in that era and expecting to be welcomed with open arms.  It was always the most insular and upper crust and preppy of the Ivys.  Yech.

    And don't miss the comments (none / 0) (#5)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:45:25 PM EST
    at the second link.  More testimony from Princeton alumni, plus brilliant skewering of Sotomayor's critics.

    My favorite so far: (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by andgarden on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:48:43 PM EST
    Also, although my windbag-to-English translation book isn't handy at the moment, I wonder what "she was predisposed to look for the worst, not the best, in the institution that had afforded her such opportunities" really means -- perhaps something like, "We let you in -- shut up and be grateful"?

    Apparently, uppity women and minorities keep making Mr. Taylor's life uncomfortable by not knowing their place.

    Mine was the MLK comment :-) (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:51:01 PM EST
    I think this same attitude could be applied (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by of1000Kings on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:46:43 PM EST
    to politics in general at the moment..or even our society in general...

    men have ruled for too long to just 'allow' women into the club without extra scrutiny and rules...

    honestly, I think that's how a lot of especially rich white men think about it (whether consciously or not)...

    they're adverse to giving up power in any way whatsoever...


    Princeton *awarded* a summa cum laude degree? (5.00 / 6) (#4)
    by rdandrea on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:43:55 PM EST
    Or Sotomayor earned one?

    Last I heard, they didn't just give those away.

    Either is okay (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by Cream City on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:50:33 PM EST
    as both are correct -- she earned it, Princeton awarded it, bestowed it, etc.  Good point, though, about who is the actor and who is the acted upon in the sentence.  At least it didn't state that she was "given" the degree (as in women were "given" suffrage, as if:-).

    However, interestingly, for those like us who like these fine points, no one ever "has" or "owns," etc., a degree.  Grads only "hold" them -- because every campus reserves the right to take back degrees (in the event of evidence that it was fraudulently earned, such as in a case of clear-cut plagiarism in a thesis that is revealed years later).  That's actually why "awarded" is okay, because just about any award can be rescinded by the bestowing body.


    It's interesting they don't tend to mention (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by nycstray on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:05:30 PM EST
    she was second in her class when acting like she got special favors. . .

    Stuart Taylor has really gone off the deep end (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by shoephone on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:49:48 PM EST
    And, BTD, I'm hoping you won't be throwing him any lifesavers when he complains this time.

    funny (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Capt Howdy on Fri May 29, 2009 at 04:55:26 PM EST
    In 1973, just a year before Sotomayor engaged in her racist crusade to destroy white men at Princeton, Cullom Davis, the founder of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, wrote mournfully in the group's magazine of the days when Princeton was "a body of men, relatively homogeneous in interests and backgrounds."

    I guess we have the predecessor of the Concerned Women of America.

    Concerned Alumni of Princeton (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by rea on Fri May 29, 2009 at 07:41:57 PM EST
    I recall from Justice Alito's confrimation hearings that he was active in Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and proudly asserted his membership later when applying for a job in the Reagan Administration.  :)

    It's really just mind-boggling how (5.00 / 6) (#24)
    by Anne on Fri May 29, 2009 at 05:49:06 PM EST
    threatened these people are - how afraid they are of a smart, assertive, accomplished woman - that's the thing that just comes screaming through these articles; it's exactly the kind of thing that was thrown at Clinton, and for the same reason.

    As much as they think they are saying something about Sotomayor, they are really speaking volumes about themselves - and it's very ugly.  People who choose to make others look small so they can look big only diminish themselves in the process, and reveal just how really small they are.

    I hope Sotomayor chooses to meet this cr@p head-on, stays off the defensive and takes the position that her education, her experience and her accomplishments are what they are, and she has to neither apologize, excuse or defend them.

    I fully expect she will continue to (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by oculus on Fri May 29, 2009 at 06:00:43 PM EST
    Represent herself well.

    Sooo embarrassingly revealing. (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by oldpro on Fri May 29, 2009 at 06:11:16 PM EST
    Envy.  One of the 7 'deadly' or Cardinal sins.

    How'd Stuart do at Princeton, hmmm?  Not second in his class?  Not summa?

    Just one of the boys...

    I'm impressed (5.00 / 0) (#35)
    by Steve M on Fri May 29, 2009 at 09:26:54 PM EST
    with anyone who had the confidence at that age to speak out about controversial issues like race and to do so constructively.

    Maybe she should be grateful to Princeton on some level but I'm pretty sure they should be grateful to her as well.  If they took action in response to her criticisms, they're likely a stronger institution for it today.

    Seems to me (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by lilburro on Fri May 29, 2009 at 10:38:18 PM EST
    she should be grateful to the trailblazers before her, as opposed to Princeton, which likely would have done little alone to accomodate a class that included non white males.  And did so presumably only under pressure.

    I graduated Princeton in Sonia's class (5.00 / 4) (#39)
    by MsExPat on Sat May 30, 2009 at 10:44:04 AM EST
    And believe me, she is being kind to the place in all her comments. I can't speak for Latinos and Blacks, but I know there was enormous hostility towards women in the culture there. I knew that there would be difficulties, since we were only the third full class of women admitted to the university. But I was utterly unprepared for the sexism, which was both social and systemic, at once intense, yet utterly unthinking and casual.

    In the class of 1976, we women students numbered one out of every four, and in freshman year most of us found ourselves boarded in the same dorm, a two story cinderblock annex of what used to be a hotel that had been recently taken over by the university to accommodate us. The university, literally, created a campus ghetto for us. The male students openly referred to our dorm as "Virgin Village." (I can't tell you how many dinner conversations I walked out on where male students would talk about what "dogs" Princeton women were, and how they were un-dateable--without noticing or caring that women were present!)

    Thank god for the female faculty (and some of the more evolved male professors), who understood what we were going through and went out of their way to help us deal with being students in a place where every tradition seemed designed to remind us we were being grudgingly accommodated.

    I give Sotomayor a lot of credit for engaging with the Princeton University officialdom--she worked through and then with their system to change it, eventually becoming a member the University Board of Trustees. I did not feel so charitable towards the place--after I graduated, I left and never looked back at the institution, only to those professors--mainly feminist social historians--who nurtured me.

    Obama and Sotomayor share minority status, but not experience or generation. Obama, as a male with basically a "white" cultural background, shows a predilection for consensus, for making nice. Sotomayor, on the other hand, tempered in the fires of mid-70s Princeton, turned out to be a pragmatic fighter.  While Sotomayor's various pro-corporate decisions give me pause, I think that her ability to channel her anger into constructive engagement with idiots and bigots like those we encountered at university is exactly what's needed at this moment in the Supreme Court.


    A riveting mini-essay; thanks (5.00 / 2) (#42)
    by Cream City on Sat May 30, 2009 at 12:16:51 PM EST
    for this comment, a first-hand account that is so edifying.  You could turn this into a great letter to the editor.

    Fyi, you probably know the woman in this story from my morning paper who knew Sotomayor then, a woman who was a senior in the first class of women at Princeton when you and Sotomayor were frosh there.  


    "Some People Say" (5.00 / 0) (#41)
    by john horse on Sat May 30, 2009 at 10:53:28 AM EST
    I hate when people use the passive voice "some people say" to preface their arguement.  If Taylor believes that "a summa cum laude degree and the prestigious Pyne Prize" from Princeton is not  evidence of her "unparalleled brilliance" he should say that this is what he believes instead of hiding behind the phrase "some people say".  

    Same thing when Taylor says "And some may see Sotomayor's letter as evidence that she was predisposed to look for the worst, not the best, in the institution that had afforded her such opportunities."  Instead of say "some may see" Taylor should state "I see" if that is what he apparently believes.  

    Sotomayor's membership on the Princeton's Board of Trustees belies Taylor's arguement.  I don't believe that people who only see the worst in an institution will be on that institution's board of trustees.  Being on the board of trustees is strong evidence of support for the institution.

    Finally when Taylor criticizes a member of his alma mater's board of trustees is this evidence that he is predisposed to look for the worst, not the best, in the institution that has afforded him so many opportunities?  Some people say it is.

    The nerve of that *Latina* woman (none / 0) (#27)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Fri May 29, 2009 at 06:08:26 PM EST
    to not know her place ...snark.

    Just wondering (none / 0) (#31)
    by sancho on Fri May 29, 2009 at 06:20:02 PM EST
    Is Stuart Taylor on the Princeton Board of Trustees? Is Stuart Taylor upset that after Judge Sotomayor is confirmed he will have to report on her decisions--that by his premises (as I guess them) he will have been surpassed by this younger graduate of his alma mater? Perhaps he can work it all out by spending as much off record time as possible with fellow alum, Sam Alito. Looks like they will have some things to work out together.  

    Mostly people are referring to guys (none / 0) (#33)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 29, 2009 at 08:15:52 PM EST
    when they call someone a jerk.

    So what (none / 0) (#34)
    by Ga6thDem on Fri May 29, 2009 at 08:16:10 PM EST
    else is new it seems?

    Maybe Britney Spears (none / 0) (#38)
    by john horse on Sat May 30, 2009 at 07:11:38 AM EST
    is more like what Stuart Taylor has in mind for a Supreme Court Justice.  She would have trusted the institution in every decision that they made and would have just supported that, you know, and be faithful in what happens.