Category Archives: Features

Nominee seen as threat to abortion rights

By Myrna Moreno

Phoenix, AZ

After Anthony Kennedy announced in June that he was retiring from the Supreme Court, President Donald Trump made good on his promise to appoint a justice who would uphold conservative values, nominating D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Republicans are thrilled with the opportunity to appoint another conservative justice to the highest court; Democrats, meanwhile, are fearful that Kennedy’s replacement would lean further to the right. But Princeton University politics professors Charles Cameron and Keith Whittington say they do not expect much to change with Kavanaugh on the court.

“The shift in the median is very tiny,” Cameron said. Like four other justices on the court, Kavanaugh is a conservative, originalist judge. Whittington agreed: Observers should not expect huge changes, he said, because the court is exchanging a conservative for another conservative.

Although Kennedy was appointed by a Republican president, he sometimes diverged from the court’s conservative wing, becoming a crucial swing vote. He voted with liberal justices on cases about gay rights, abortion, the death penalty and affirmative action.

Kavanaugh, 53, is more reliably conservative, which means that there will likely be more conservative court decisions. Liberals fear his confirmation could change the balance of the court—tilting it even further to the right—for a generation.

But Whittington said things won’t change too much. Kavanaugh, he said, is very careful with cases that are very controversial, taking “small steps rather than big steps.”

Because conservatives will continue to dominate the Supreme Court, abortion-rights supporters are concerned that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that cemented a woman’s right to get an abortion, might be overturned. Both Cameron and Whittington predict the court will never completely overturn Roe v. Wade, but they both concede the conservative justices could chip away at abortion rights in other ways. Cameron believes that the court might allow greater restrictions on abortion, while Whittington said the justices could undermine the ruling by “nibbling away on the margins.”

Ultimately, Cameron said he doesn’t “think Trump gives a damn about the Supreme Court,” crediting the Federalist Society, which grooms reliably conservative judges and pushes for their installation on the court, with his selection.

Cameron said Kavanaugh is thoughtful, humorous, and articulate. But politically, his appointment fulfills a major conservative priority.

“Kavanaugh,” he said, “is the perfect candidate for Republicans.”

Small World wins fans with each sip

By Christina Maldonado

Gallup, NM

The cool air inside Small World Coffee invites Princeton locals and visitors into a different world. 

The outside walls and a small portion of the entrance is mint green, sandwiched between brown brick walls. The menu is not displayed on television screens, but rather on a black chalkboard with round letters and small doodles of coffee cups. The left side has a bulletin board with posters pinned up for various community events, while T-shirts hang on one wall. The area is filled with people sitting and holding engaged conversations. 

General manager Vincent Jule, 39, first started working at the Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in 2001. In college, Jule saw the cafe as just a “good job to pay the bills,” but it soon became a core part of his life. Jule knew the previous owners, Jessica Durrie and her husband Brant Cossaboom, so he feels committed to carry on the native atmosphere of the cafe, which opened in 1993. 

Jule is invested not only with the business model of the cafe, but also the ethics. Small World tries to pay its employees well, offering a rate significantly above minimum wage, plus vacation time. The team has become invested in the lives of their customers, and a place where people routinely start their day.

Alexis Lucena, a Small World barista, sat on a small brown bench on the right side of the main Small World entrance. Lucena, who will celebrate her fourth anniversary on the job next week, describes her job as “fast-paced” and “fun.” To Lucena, Small World provides a sense of teamwork, family and community. Customers keep coming back because they’ve made memories in the cafe. 

Back inside, the majority of customers are having conversations among each other, it’s thunderous from the talking. Footsteps echo through the space, baristas shout orders, customers talk over one another, and the entrance swings open and closed. Austin Hounsel, 23 and a grad student at Princeton who is originally from Texas, is sitting near the stairs with his laptop out. Hounsel said he comes to Small World “seven days a week.” He said the cafe is a cozy environment, so it’s a great place for both being with friends and getting work done. 

The cafe has pictures on the wall with the caption, “small world around the world.” The exhibit shows photos of customers wearing Small World T-shirts in front of buildings and monuments all around the world. Customers who bring in a photo earn a free coffee. Yet the people in the pictures all return to this cafe in Princeton because the environment is warm and, in the words of one regular quoted on the wall,  “You made me feel like I never left.”

Trump picks Kavanaugh, conservative favorite

By Evelyn Moradian

Glendale, CA

The nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump looks like another major victory for the right. If confirmed, Kavanaugh could dramatically affect how the court rules on contentious issues such as abortion, religious liberty, and separation of powers.

During his campaign, Trump promised to nominate conservative judges, and he delivered last year with Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. After swing vote Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement in June, Trump again narrowed his list of possible nominees to several strong conservatives before choosing Kavanaugh, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Charles Cameron, a Princeton University professor of politics and public affairs, said he doesn’t “think Trump gives a damn about the Supreme Court,” but he believes Kavanaugh is the “perfect” Republican candidate, fulfilling everything the party desires. From abortion to labor unions, Kavanaugh’s views are in line with mainstream conservatism. Cameron chalks up Trump’s selection of Kavanaugh to the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative lawyers, judges, and scholars that has helped Republicans staff the judiciary.   

Cameron believes Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate barring a scandal—a “smoking gun” that discredits the judge. Likewise, Princeton professor Keith  Whittington said he’d be “shocked” if Kavanaugh is not confirmed. Whittington, a conservative who opposed Trump in 2016, found Kavanaugh’s nomination to be a “pleasant surprise,” though he doesn’t believe Kavanaugh will significantly change the direction of the Supreme Court. Despite Whittington’s skepticism of Trump’s commitment to conservatism during the campaign, the professor supports Trump’s handling of judicial nominations.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed, Democrats fear that the Supreme Court will reverse several important decisions—notably Roe v. Wade, which established a woman’s right to an abortion. But both professors argued that the Supreme Court will not overturn that decision outright. Rather, Whittington believes that the court will instead limit abortion by “nibbling away on the margins,” while Cameron said the court will let “the exceptions to the rule destroy the rule.” In other words, although the case may not be overturned, it can be stripped to the point of nothingness.

Roe isn’t the only precedent at risk. Kavanaugh’s nomination could also change how the court approaches presidential power, voting rights, labor, and a host of other issues. But while the nomination fight over Kavanaugh will be heated, Cameron believes it’s only part of a larger picture of polarization.

Alums thrive in journalism

By Mauricio Vazquez

Dallas, TX

Back in elementary school, Gabriel Debenedetti would race outside every morning to grab The New York Times. He started with the sports section, so he could discuss the previous night’s events with classmates. Soon, he started reading the other sections too. Eventually, that young reader would go on to cover politics for New York Magazine.

Though Debenedetti is busy covering national politics, he found time to return to Princeton University, from which he graduated in 2012, for a conversation with students from The Princeton Summer Journal. Debenedetti mostly writes articles that shed light on the less salacious and sensationalized side of politics. He aims to report on important political events across the country that might not be as widely covered.

Sure, other topics might generate more buzz, but he knows his job isn’t to write viral stories. Debenedetti writes to educate others. “There’s not really a world in which people will not continue to need the news, and to need to know what’s going on around them,” he said.

Megan Garber feels similarly. To Garber, a culture writer at The Atlantic and a Princeton alum from the class of 2002, staying informed is crucial to one’s sense of self. “How can anyone achieve their full potential if they don’t understand the world?” she asked. Like Debenedetti, Garber sees her role as a journalist as educating others on current events so they can navigate the world as informed and thoughtful individuals.

As a culture reporter, Garber covers a bit of everything. When asked about her latest story, she mentioned a review she was writing of the new romantic-comedy movie, Dog Days. This is something that many forget about journalism today: Though heavy political events dominate headlines, there are writers covering fun, lighter topics, and that’s just as important. Many people grow tired of reading about so much negativity every day, and sometimes a funny movie review adds some much needed levity.

It’s a strange time to be a journalist. In the current political climate, some Americans are skeptical of the media and like to discredit reporters. And the “fake news” phenomenon doesn’t make the job any easier. Though the incentives to go into journalism might seem slim, the hunger for credible and well-researched reporting is precisely why we need more journalists.  So why are journalists like Debenedetti and Garber important? Because they speak the truth—something we desperately need.

Princeton boasts dueling acai options

By Daniela Vivas

Arlando, FL

The acai craze is nationwide, and Princeton is no exception. A few steps away from the Princeton University campus are two popular acai bowl eateries, both family-run businesses owned by working moms who used to have 9-to-5 jobs.

Haydee Kapetanakis, 49, co-owns Frutta Bowls, on Nassau Street, with her husband, George, but she previously worked in human resources at a pharmaceutical company. She and her kids, who are 12 and 9, first tried acai four years ago and loved it. The store, which Kapetanakis calls their “little baby,” opened its doors in March. She’s very proud of providing jobs for 22 local residents.

A short distance away from Frutta Bowls is another well-known local business called Tico’s, which started in 2006 as the dream of a Costa Rican man and became the life of a whole family. Renee De Bernard, 48, co-owns the eatery with her husband, Ammel.

Tico’s started as a Latin food restaurant known for their tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and salads. De Bernard kept her day job, in accounting, until Tico’s was established enough for her to quit. When one of her customers introduced her to acai bowls two years ago, she added it to the menu. The superfood eventually became so popular that the kitchen ran out of space, and the couple decided to shrink the food choices on their menu.

Being part of the community for 12 years requires a lot of time and effort. De Bernard, her husband, and their two sons, 15 and 11, participate every Saturday in the West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market. At the market, the family offers acai bowls, smoothies, and juices from a food truck. It’s a way for the family to promote their business while staying involved in the community. In addition to the weekly market and their regular customers, the owners rely on their sons’ social-media skills to help them spread the word on Instagram and Facebook.

Despite two different initial approaches—Frutta Bowls jumped right into the acai trend, while Tico’s evolved from a Latin food restaurant—both businesses incorporate similar formulas for success: community outreach, family, and acai.

Acai craze comes to Princeton

By Fernando Cienfuegos and Aurora Rivera

Azusa, CA and Los Angeles, CA

Hidden on the corner of Witherspoon and Spring streets in Princeton is a small juice bar that brings Latin American flavor to Central Jersey. Inside Tico’s, co-founder Renee De Bernard serves up healthy juices and acai bowls.

“I think it’s amazing that we’ve become such an integral part of this community,” De Bernard said.

She wasn’t always in the acai business. When she and her husband, Ammel, first bought the restaurant, then called Moondoggie Café, in 2006, she worked as an accountant while her husband ran the business. (They changed the name to Tico’s, the nickname for a Costa Rican—Ammel grew up there—shortly after taking over Moondoggie.) In the beginning, the family found it was difficult to balance work and a home life. But as soon as the business was able to keep the family afloat, De Bernard decided to leave her job in order to take care of her kids and help her husband live out his dream of running a successful business.

“When we decided we were going to open this business, we knew it was not going to be easy,” De Bernard said. “To make it work, we needed to put in the hours.”

With two sons, 11 and 15, the De Bernards take turns opening and closing the juice bar throughout the day.

Two years ago, De Bernard decided to serve up the newest trend: acai bowls. But when it comes to acai, Princetonians have options. Down the block from Tico’s is Frutta Bowls, the newest of the acai bowl vendors on Nassau Street.

“It’s a craze right now!” owner Haydee Kapetanakis said. Frutta Bowls, founded in New Jersey in 2016 and now operating in 14 states, opened its Princeton location this year.

Like De Bernard, Kapetanakis wasn’t always in the food business. Kapetanakis spent the past 30 years in human resources working for a pharmaceutical company. Her husband, George, works in the medical field doing cardiovascular studies, giving the family a decorated background in the wellness business. They previously owned kickboxing gyms, adding on to their résumes in the health and wellness field, and are now pursuing the food industry, trying to figure it out along the way.

Since opening five months ago, Frutta Bowls has tried to reach out to Princetonians through different fundraising events and community activities. Kapetanakis wants to continue emphasizing community outreach, but she also wants to prioritize her life outside of acai.

“I wanted some flexibility with my family,” Kapetanakis said about her former job, where she said she worked demanding hours. “I needed that balance. I want to make sure that I’m there for my kids.”

Chief: Police won’t ask about immigration status, unless arresting

By Katheryn Quijada-Polanco

Oakland, CA

The man was unconscious. He’d been beaten and robbed. Nick Sutter, then a young detective in Princeton, feared he’d never catch the person who did it. That wasn’t because the attacker’s identity was unknown — the victim’s family knew exactly who was responsible. But they were undocumented immigrants from Guatemala and terrified that, if they talked to police, they’d be deported.

Sutter is now Princeton’s chief of police. That case, in particular, helped shape how he wants his officers to police immigrant and minority communities: by gaining their trust instead of instilling fear.

In many crimes, Sutter recently told The Princeton Summer Journal, victims are targeted “specifically because of their immigration status and their perceived hesitation to cooperate with law enforcement.” He added, “we’ve been trying to overcome that stigma with our community for a long time.”

Several recent incidents have made Sutter’s job harder. In 2016, Imani Perry, a Princeton African-American studies professor, was pulled over for speeding and then arrested on a warrant for unpaid parking violations. Perry’s account of being searched by a white male officer and handcuffed to a table at the police station made national headlines. Then, earlier this year, amid a national debate over officer-involved shootings, a mentally-troubled veteran named Scott L. Mielentz charged into a Panera Bread near the university with a bb gun. After an hours-long standoff, state troopers fatally shot him. “When a life is taken it’s not something that you get over quickly,” Sutter said.

Sutter lamented the mistrust between some residents and law enforcement—he said he became an officer to protect those who can’t protect themselves and shared several ideas for how to fix this. First, expand the department’s inventory of less-lethal weapons such as bean bags, tasers, batons, and pepper spray to better help officers disarm unstable people.

Sutter also wants his officers to wear body cameras to show the public that they’re trustworthy. He also plans to continue to diversify the department.

After all, he only solved the case of the man beaten into coma because someone from the Guatemalan community convinced the family to talk.