Tag Archives: Princeton

In thesis, Mueller stressed rule of law

By Ngan Chiem

Pennsauken, NJ 

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been preparing for the Russia investigation for more than 50 years.

Mueller is currently investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, including possible collusion by President Donald Trump’s campaign, but 52 years ago, when Mueller was an undergraduate at Princeton, he was fixated on another question.

The future FBI director, then 22, was thinking about Africa.    

In 1966, the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations, ruled on a case deciding whether South Africa had the right to expand apartheid—a system of racial segregation—to nearby Southwest Africa, now known as Namibia. At the time, South Africa had authority over the area, which came with the condition that South Africa would govern humanely and promote peace. It was this promise that encouraged Ethiopia and Liberia to bring the case to the United Nations, claiming apartheid was unethical.

Mueller’s thesis focused on one question: Did the International Court of Justice—or, the World Court —even have the right to rule on the case? The majority opinion at the time was that the Court did.

Historically, the World Court was designed to be a place where sovereign states could request the legal opinion of the United Nations. But the dissent argued that South Africa was completely within its rights under an agreement signed after South Africa took the territory after World War I.

In his thesis, Mueller recognized the legal strength of the dissenting judges’ opinion that the Court had no right to interfere with South Africa. But he also argued that the Court’s ethical responsibility to intervene was written into its mandate. In the face of strong legal arguments on both sides, Mueller turned his attention to the moral issue at the heart of the case: apartheid.

“He’s really saying, when the law is ambiguous, you should do the ethnically right thing,” said Mueller’s thesis adviser Richard Falk, an emeritus professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “That’s an issue that many lawyers don’t understand. And he understood it and at a very early age.”

In the end, Mueller concluded that despite the strength of the argument denying the court’s authority to rule on the issue, it was outweighed by the court’s ethical obligation to preserve human rights. The Court’s decision to take South Africa’s case, he wrote, “was a positive contribution … to the ultimate goal of a world peace founded upon a rule of law.”

Now, more than 50 years later, Mueller stands on the precipice of a decision in the Russia investigation, which is how to handle any potential misconduct by the President of the United States and his campaign. To predict a man’s judgement based on his writing from decades ago can be precarious, especially considering the high stakes. But at least during his undergraduate days, Mueller saw flexibility in the law. “What he wrote as a Princeton senior,” Falk said, remains “quite interesting—and relevant.”

At Princeton, Mueller tackled rule of law issues in thesis

By Prettystar Lopez

Bronx, NY 

During his final year at Princeton University, in 1966, Robert Mueller wrote a senior thesis about the role of the law in a dramatic international crisis. Half a century later, as Special Counsel for the Russia investigation, Mueller finds himself at the center of another complex legal fight, fraught with political and ethical questions. It’s hard not to see parallels between the cases.

Mueller’s thesis concerned a narrow case with global implications. The World Court, or the International Court of Justice (ICJ), was called to rule on a legal complaint against South Africa’s extension of apartheid—the country’s brutal segregationist policy—to neighboring South West Africa (now Namibia). The Court was split on whether it even had the right to rule on the matter. Mueller, too, was conflicted. But he ultimately argued that the court’s job was not just to rule on narrow legal disputes, but large-scale moral questions, like apartheid.

Professor Richard Falk, an emeritus professor at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and Mueller’s thesis advisor at the time, thinks Mueller’s conclusion may shed light on his handling of the Russia investigation. “What he does is examine these legal arguments carefully and then he said, ‘This court is not just interested in legal analysis, it’s also a court set up to contribute to a more peaceful world, and to help with the promotion of human rights,’” Falk said. “The underlying question [of the Russia investigation] is, did [Trump] or did he not, do things that were subversive to the constitutional democracy? If [Mueller] was consistent with the way he handled his thesis, he would say, ‘We hold president Trump accountable for what he did because it’s very damaging to the quality of democracy.’”

But what if American democracy has bigger problems than Russia? While meddling in the 2016 election is antithetical to the democratic process, it is of little relevance to those who find themselves entangled with problems in their own communities. America isn’t an apartheid state, like South Africa was. Nor is it as racially segregated as when Mueller attended Princeton. But the rise of Donald Trump—with or without Russian help —has inflamed racial divisions that persist from that era.

Mueller built his thesis on the idea that legal bodies have moral responsibilities. And he may well apply those principles in his investigation. Yet, as a nation we face internal dilemmas around race and poverty that have barely been mitigated with the passing of time. To argue that our democracy is suddenly at stake, and that Mueller can save it, our country would have had to be doing well before. And it certainly wasn’t. Whatever Mueller concludes in the Russia investigation, there are broader societal problems he is unlikely to solve.

‘Waltz’ is a tale of love and tenderness

By Nicole Chow

New York, NY

Anxious breathing in the waiting room. A monologue uncovering emotions. Quaky legs locked in nervousness. This is how the character Anna opens Princeton Summer Theater’s production of ‘The Baltimore Waltz,’ a play by Paula Vogel.

Anna is waiting for the diagnosis of her brother, who has AIDS. Vogel, whose brother died of AIDS, based the play on real life events. But in a twist, Anna and Carl switch perspectives in the play. Anna becomes the one who’s contracted a strange illness—ATD: Acquired Toilet Disease—which she supposedly caught from using a public bathroom while teaching in a elementary school.

The two characters go on an adventure around Europe, where Anna goes on a sexual spree. This sexual desire comes from one of the stages of coping with the acknowledgement of your own death—lust. The first night they arrive in Paris, Anna starts to face these stages. At one point, she begins to fantasize about the idea of death, standing in the middle of the stage with gloomy light and a soft presence. “This is how I’d like to die, with dignity,” she said.

The play was marvelously performed by Abby Melick, Sean Peter Drohan and Evan Gedrich. From the acting to the technical elements like lighting, sound and stage design, the play was impeccable in every sense. Sure, there were stutters, maybe a couple, but the level of professionalism and meticulous movement was impressive. I was sitting dead center, seat 105, and let me tell you, it was the best seat in the house. From that point of view, I was in the middle of it all. I was the dream the characters looked up to, the audience they spoke with. Every placement and movement of each actor was strategic and poetic. The lights and the colors illuminated the stage as so that it illustrated the mind of the characters. The music served to set the time and feeling, the unimaginable beat of the moment. Whenever two characters stood in center stage, the beautiful imagery would remind me how important angles are in a story, both physical and mental.

There are symbols in this play, most prominently stuffed bunnies, one of which Carl seems too attached to. Carl and another character smuggle bunnies here and there, hiding something inside of each—not quite drugs, but meaning. But what are they trying to keep and hold so dearly on to? Is it life and hope? Drugs? Health? A cure?

Running into the hospital room, jumping into the bed and screaming for help, Anna begins to end the play, revealing that everything that took place after her and her brother switched perspectives isn’t part of the real world; it relied on Anna’s mind and her fantasies.

The play ends with Anna and Carl dancing a waltz, him in a suit and her in the only piece of clothing she’s been wearing throughout the whole story—swift and energetic moves, parallel to the way they lived, yet so full of love and tenderness.

President draws mixed reviews

By Oswaldo Vazquez and Matea Toolie

Los Angeles, CA and Savoonga, AK

A crowded night in Princeton served as the perfect setting to gather diverse perspectives on one of the most talked-about Americans today: President Donald Trump. On August 3, reporters from The Princeton Summer Journal asked Princeton residents to name one positive and one negative thing about the president. Some were enthusiastic to give their thoughts, others were uninterested—and their opinions varied.

“Trump is ruining the country. He is an embarrassment,” said Chris Michie when asked his views about the president. Michie, a middle-aged Democrat, thinks that the president’s current policies are “destroying decades of hard work from his predecessors. … He has no respect for the people and is a liar.” When asked if he could identify a positive aspect of Trump, he answered with an emphatic, “no!”

Cornelia O’Grady, a former Republican who no longer supports any party, said she did not quite like Trump, but she appreciated his ability to unite people. She said that Trump “is bringing people together—the people who would not normally be together. He unifies the middle.” She is concerned, however, about the president’s financial conflicts and the corruption in his administration. “He is making money off this country,” she said. “There is evidence that he is selling us out to the Russians. An example of that would be the cyber attacks” on Democrats.

It wasn’t just Americans who had opinions about the president. “He is brave for being a 70-year-old man. Probably one thing I like,” said Cici Zhan, who was visiting from China.     

Perplexed, indifferent, or annoyed by the journalists’ questions—or perhaps a combination of all three—a man named Rene Saiguro said frankly: “I don’t know about the politics today. I don’t think anything of it.” As soon as the interview was done, Saiguro was on his way.

Rob and Kristen Holly, two registered Republicans, had positive things to say about Trump. Both commented on the “brave and fearless speeches” the president has given to the public since the start of his political campaign. The couple still had some concerns. “I wish he was not socially awkward. I would like to see a more eloquent president,” said Rob Holly.

The Hollys ultimately agreed that Trump still has a long way to go to become the “ideal president,” further criticizing his colleagues in the White House who don’t have the political experience to run the country properly.

Trump finds few fans in Princeton

By Ikra Islam

Brooklyn, NY

President Trump’s name is so intertwined with controversy that even in largely liberal Princeton, few are willing to attach their names to a statement about him. But on a recent Friday evening, several residents felt the need to vocalize their frustration with the president and his policies.

Cynthia Parker, a Princeton local, said Trump’s choice to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last year pushed her to become more vocal and politically active. Before the election, she rarely paid attention to local politics—but that changed when the reality of Trump’s victory set in.

At first, it was hard for Parker to accept Trump as her president. Parker recalled she would exercise during the 2016 election to distract herself from the news. She continued to exercise to distract herself after Trump took office, swimming an extra hour every day, but she also started channeling her energy into activism.

Parker and a group of friends wrote a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, like them a graduate of Hanover College. The group voiced their concerns about Trump’s rhetoric and accused him of failing to empathize with the concerns of Americans. They also criticized the selection of Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice. After sending the letter, she began attending rallies and protests, demonstrating against the administration’s policies and championing local politicians she hopes will help bring change.

Unlike Parker, Rajesh Shah, an IT engineer from Mumbai, India, sees some positive in Trump. “He’s bringing back jobs by lowering taxes, which is not a solution, but it definitely seems to be helping,” he said.

But Shah is also critical of the administration. Shah disagrees with Trump’s emphasis on coal, arguing that trying to revive the coal industry doesn’t make sense. He believes America needs to become more fuel efficient, though he also said the government should take care of coal miners who might lose work as the American economy continues to evolve.

Jennifer Robinson, a librarian at Princeton Library, is particularly distraught by President Trump’s immigration policies. She’s concerned that the legacy of his administration—the damage, in her view—will long outlive his presidency.

“I know it’s temporary,” she said. “But it breaks my heart because it’s going to be years before his influence is gone.”

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.