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Student Writings From 1970s Show Sotomayor Assailing Princeton for Discrimination

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor once accused Princeton University of attempting to "relegate" the Puerto Rican and Chicano population to "oblivion," according to a decades-old letter to the editor released by the university's newspaper. 

The Daily Princetonian has posted a series of Sotomayor-related letters and articles from the 1970s that show her early interest in the issues of discrimination and minority representation as a student at the Ivy League school. 

In one May 10, 1974, letter to the editor, Sotomayor -- whose parents are from Puerto Rico -- described and defended a student complaint against the university charging it with an "institutional pattern of discrimination." 

Puerto Rican and Chicano students objected that Princeton had no administrators or faculty members of either background, she wrote. They objected that there were very few Puerto Rican or Chicano students on campus and that the university did not offer courses dealing with their cultures. 

"What is terrifying to us are the implications," Sotomayor wrote. "The facts imply and reflect the total absence of regard, concern and respect for an entire people and their culture. In effect, they reflect an attempt -- a successful attempt so far -- to relegate an important cultural sector of the population to oblivion."  

She continued: "It has been said that the universities of America are the vanguard of societal ideas and changes. Princeton University claims to foster the intellectual diversity, spirit, and thoughts that are necessary components in order to achieve this ideal. Yet words are transitory; it is the practice of the ideas you espouse that affect society and are permanent. Thus it is only when Princeton fulfills the goal of being a truly representative community that it can attempt to instill in society a respect for all people -- regardless of race, color, sex or national origin." 

The Sotomayor letters and articles from her college days, though decades old, could help provide personal context for Sotomayor's subsequent decisions on such issues on district and appeals courts. 

One case from last year when she was on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has drawn much attention. In the case, the appellate panel ruled against a group of white firefighters who sued the city of New Haven, Conn., for throwing out the results of a promotion test because not enough minority firefighters scored high.

During her college years, Sotomayor was also co-chairwoman of a campus group called Accion Puertorriquena.