March 17, 2021

PU’s Whig-Clio Votes to Take Back Ted Cruz’s Public Service Award

By Donald Gilpin

Princeton University’s Whig-Cliosophic Society (Whig-Clio), a student political, literary, and debate society, has voted to rescind its James Madison Award for Public Service from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a 1992 Princeton University graduate.

Cruz, who received the award in 2016, has been under fire recently for his support for  allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 election and his leadership of the Republicans’ efforts to oppose certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, actions which Cruz’s critics believe encouraged the January 6 attacks on the Capitol. 

Whig-Clio’s motion to rescind the award, given to individuals who have “taken up the arduous but fair cause of devoting their lives to the betterment of society,” passed by a vote of 37-32 after a 90-minute series of speeches for and against rescinding the award, according to The Daily Princetonian student newspaper.

Whig-Clio President Julia Chaffers, a junior, declined to comment on the decision. The Whig-Clio trustees will take up the result and decide whether to officially revoke Cruz’ award.   

Cruz’s Senate office did not respond to a request for comment on the Whig-Clio vote.

Princeton University chose not to comment directly on Cruz or the Whig-Clio vote, as Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss noted, “Student organizations at Princeton serve and are led by students, and each organization is responsible for its governance and decision-making.“

In his January 6 blog post Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber did address the events of that day and the assault on the Capitol. “There is no place in a democracy for what transpired today in Washington,” he wrote. “Such lawless behavior is unacceptable and weakens our country. Every leader has a responsibility to oppose it and never to stoke or encourage it.”

Hotchkiss added, “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.”

Members of Whig-Clio have never before voted to rescind their James Madison Award, which was initiated in 1960 and has gone to a diverse range of recipients, including diplomats,
activists, U.S. presidents, and even foreign royalty. Whig-Clio was founded in about 1765 and is the oldest college debating society in the country, according to its website.

A number of Princeton University alumni have also been active in condemning Cruz’s recent actions, with several petitions currently in circulation. One petition signed by more than half of Cruz’s Princeton classmates condemns his actions “to undermine democracy and our Constitution.” 

Another petition, claiming that Cruz has “brought shame to our University” with actions “contrary to the spirit and aspirations of Princetonians and Princeton University to make positive contributions to society,” has collected more than 1,100 signatures from alumni across the age spectrum. 

A third petition, suggesting such measures as Cruz’s resignation, his prohibition from pursuing public office in the future, and rescinding his undergraduate degree, has garnered more than 1,400 signatures from Princeton students, alumni, faculty, and staff.