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October 13, 2022 11:31 am

Stanford University’s Jewish Quotas Admission Prompts Response from Jewish World

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

The main quadrangle at Stanford University. Photo: King of Hearts / Wikimedia Commons.

Stanford University on Wednesday issued a bombshell report admitting that it limited Jewish enrollment in the mid-twentieth century.

The report is the work of a panel the university convened in January to investigate claims published in August 2021 by Cornell University postdoctoral fellow Charles Petersen that the university had once implemented a quota system for Jewish students.

“We discovered evidence of actions taken to suppress the number of Jewish students admitted to Stanford during the early 1950s,” the university report said. “Second, we found that members of the Stanford administration regularly misled parents and friends of applicants, alumni, outside investigators, and trustees who raised concerns about those actions throughout the 1950s and 1960s.”

On Wednesday, Stanford University president Marc Tessier-Lavigne said the panel, chaired by Jewish Studies professor Ari Y. Kelman, uncovered “appalling antisemitic activity.” He also pledged to adopt the panel’s recommendations for “enhancing Jewish life on campus today.”

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“I wish to apologize to the Jewish community, and to our entire university community, both for the actions documented in this report to suppress the admission of Jewish students in the 1950s and for the university’s denials of those actions in the period that followed,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “These actions were wrong. They were damaging. And they were unacknowledged for too long.”

The report revealed that in 1953 former Stanford director of admissions Rixford Snyder lobbied for discarding Stanford University’s policy of “paying no attention to the race or religion of applicants” after expressing in a memo “concerns about the number of Jewish students” at the university to President Wallace Sterling’s assistant, Frederic Glover.

Snyder specifically noted that two schools, Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax School, had substantial Jewish populations. That fall, enrollments from both significantly decreased to levels “no other schools experienced.”

Snyder likely received implicit approval from others in the administration, the report added.

It also noted that during the 1950s and 60s the university denied it was discriminating against Jews, leveraging “the literal definition of quota” to conceal a conspiracy to keep qualified Jewish students off campus. For years after Snyder left his role as director of admissions in 1969, the university boasted about never adopting the Jewish Quotas used by other Ivy League Schools such as Columbia University, Harvard University, and Yale University.

“The historical research presented her calls that claim into question,” the report continued. “While there may never have been a formal quota (and Stanford used that technical defense often), we have found clear evidence of anti-Jewish bias in admissions at the highest levels of the university in the early 1950s.”

The report’s revelations prompted responses across the Jewish world.

“Today’s antisemitism is predicated upon a long history of anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry, and discrimination,” Jewish on Campus (JOC) spokesperson Michal Cohen told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “When an institution seeks to make amends for a past in which it promoted antisemitism, it shows a commitment to a more just and equal future.”

Miriam Elman, executive director of the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) said Tessier-Lavigne’s apology was “timely and constructive.”

“Even more important than finally acknowledging the discrimination against Jews in Stanford’s past is his commitment to improving the campus climate for Jewish students today,” she continued. “Commissioning a standing advisory committee for Jewish life at Stanford, ensuring that antisemitism is included in anti-bias training, and increasing resources for housing, dining, and religious accommodation are all best practices that will create the kind of welcoming, supportive learning environment that Jewish students deserve.”

Responding on Twitter, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) San Francisco office tweeted, “The Jewish community has long waited for today’s earnest apology for Stanford University’s antisemitic and bigoted admissions policies of the 1950s.”

“ADL proudly opened our archives to Professor Kelman’s excellent research,” it added. “University admissions must be free from discrimination and bias.”

Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism, told The Algemeiner that Stanford University’s confession is “refreshing,” but added that its “antisemitism problem is creeping into its future.”

Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, also urged the university to acknowledge antisemitism that Jewish students experience today.

“Jewish students don’t feel that they are included as an identity in the university’s DEI programs,” she said. “Although today’s report does recognize past misdeeds, it is just the tip of the iceberg and is inadequate for addressing contemporary antisemitism. I just hope that the university takes real concrete steps to do so and that it will not take over fifty years.”

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