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Columnist, (would-be) senator, and co-founder of the Fed: Who was Neil Gorsuch?

Last evening, President Donald Trump announced that he would nominate a Columbia alum for a position on the Supreme Court. You know the one—Neil Gorsuch, CC ’88, Spec columnist, and a co-founder of the Federalist.

Sure, this little tidbit is an interesting trivia question or conversation starter at the dinner table (“Yeah, that guy who was just nominated for the Supreme Court went to my school”), but what else do you really know about Gorsuch? I’ll wait.

Yeah, probably not a lot. However, since Gorsuch was a frequent contributor to Spec, we have a lot of written material in our archives that might say a bit about his character and (potentially) be able to predict what he will do once he’s confirmed for the Supreme Court. So who is Neil Gorsuch? Here are some of our findings.

The Senator

In the spring of 1986, Gorsuch ran for the University Senate. For students to be informed when they went to the polls, Spec decided to ask each candidate nine questions and publish their responses. So what did Gorsuch have to say?

  • “Free speech works; it works better than any form of censorship or suppression.”
  • On whether reading week should be extended: “This question, I believe, could be better decided by a poll of the student population than by the Senate.”
  • When asked if more women and minority authors should be taught in the Core Curriculum: “If possible, yes.”
  • When asked whether students should be able to sit on the Board of Trustees: “[Students] have no representation on the Board of Trustees. Columbia sorely needs to change this.”

Later during the election season, Gorsuch was disqualified from the election for breaking a rule about how many posters could be displayed on a dorm floor. He then criticized the harshness of the election committee’s rules, and said that he “did not know about the rule stating that no more than two posters can be put on a floor” and that “the friends who helped him poster were responsible for most of the violations.”

On Cuba and Castro

As a first-year, Gorsuch journeyed to an abandoned office building to talk with a group of Cuban men who, after being exiled from their home country by Castro, joined the Cuban Refugee Association of New York. Their mission was to mobilize the American people, ultimately hoping to end Castro’s reign in Cuba and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua.

Gorsuch even told these men that he would attend one of their rallies, saying that “perhaps we all should take more notice, think a little more on the subject, and act.”

Ever the realist

Gorsuch was involved in politics even in his early life. Not only did he run for the University Senate as a sophomore, but as a junior he took to commenting on what was going on politically around CU. His findings? That the student council was ineffective because it focused too much on the “wild desires of a few,” and the only remedy was to elect people who proposed “mundane” and unambitious (but achievable) goals.

Dissenting thoughts on diversity

Even back in the mid-to-late ’80s, Columbia was considered to be a pretty (ethnically and politically) diverse school. This is a trait that we still pride ourselves on today, but Gorsuch had different views on the matter. In his eyes, we weren’t really that diverse— he thought that many students questioned the progressive ideologies, and that people at Columbia seemed to see things in only two lights: “Right or Wrong, Moral or Immoral, Compassionate or Heartless.”

The alternative to this black-and-white type of thinking, to Gorsuch, was simple: “We need a university that fosters diversity, tolerance, and respect, not discrimination.” However, as we know too well today, that is easier said than done.

Against the “progressives”

Gorsuch criticized CU’s generally left-swinging and protest culture as a junior in CC. He criticized campus “progressives” (his words) for “aimlessly criticizing whatever struck their fancy.” He also said that progressive students insisted that they were “being harassed by ‘terroristic fascists’” and that they were actually “asking for special treatment.”

Sueing poster writers

Yes, you read that correctly. Since Gorsuch was on the editorial board for the Fed way back in 1987, he was able to share that the Fed was possibly going to file a lawsuit against the rogue creators of a poster that read “Students should boycott Coors beer and the Federalist Paper.” The underlying issue with this? The Fed was actually being funded by the right-wing Heritage Foundation.

We hope that some of his columns shed some light both on his time at Columbia and his general persona. Can we predict what he’ll do once he’s in the Supreme Court? That’s for you to decide.

What do you think of Trump’s pick? Found any other previous Spec articles written by Gorsuch? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat @CUSpectrum.

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