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Stanford limited Jewish student admissions in 1950s, admits university

Stanford University apologized on Wednesday after an internal task force confirmed that the school restricted the admission of Jewish students in the 1950s and then ‘regularly misled’ those who misled themselves. informed about this later.

University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called the restrictions “appalling anti-Semitic activity,” in a university-wide memo, adding that “this ugly component of Stanford’s history, confirmed by this new report, is saddening and deeply disturbing”.

The practices were first reported on a blog by historian Charles Petersen, who wrote last year in an article titled “How I Discovered Stanford’s Jewish Quota” that a memo in the archives of the school amounted to “a smoking historical gun”.

Petersen found a 1953 letter to JE Wallace Sterling, then president of Stanford, from assistant admissions director Rixford Snyder, in which it was noted that the incoming freshman class would have a “high percentage of Jewish boys” . Snyder, the assistant wrote, “thought you should be aware of this issue, as it has very tricky implications.”

The memo lamented that “the University of Virginia has become largely a Jewish institution, and that Cornell also has a very large number of Jewish enrollments.” He warned that while Stanford was to accept “a few” applicants from two heavily Jewish high schools in Los Angeles, “the following year we get a flood of Jewish applications.”

Such a dilemma, according to the memo, forced them to “disregard our stated policy of paying no attention to the race or religion of candidates.”

The task force report – which was convened almost a year ago – found in its review of the Registrar’s Office annual reports that from 1949 to 1952, Stanford enrolled 87 students from the two schools, Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax High School. From 1952 to 1955, however, only 14 students were enrolled in these schools. The report says records “indicate no other public school that experienced such a sharp drop in student enrollment during this same six-year period or any other six-year period during the 1950s and 1960s. “.

Tessier-Lavigne, the current president, said the practices – as well as “the university’s denials of these actions in the period that followed” – were “erroneous”, “damaging” and “unrecognized for too long “.

Arguments in a case involving modern quotas at an elite institution are set to be heard this month in the Supreme Court. A group of Asian Americans is suing Harvard – which also limited its admissions of Jewish students in the early 20th century – alleging the university unfairly discriminated against them by capping admissions as a kind of “racial balance” of his students. Harvard denies the allegations. The plaintiffs cited Harvard’s past quotas on Jewish students as evidence in their case.

Before Asian Americans sued Harvard, the school once tried to restrict the number of Jews

Petersen, the historian, wrote that the only previous comment he could find from the admissions office on the subject was a 1996 statement to the Stanford Daily, the school newspaper, in which an admissions officer said that such allegations were only “rumors” and that “claims of the existence of quotas are based only on the beliefs of the few Jewish members of the Stanford community in the 1940s and 1950s”.

“Either the admissions office was lying,” Petersen wrote, “or they didn’t look so tough.”

On Thursday, Petersen said he felt some pride and anxiety after the college announcement. He said he was glad Stanford took the issue seriously, but he thought the school was wrong to see it exclusively as an anti-Semitism issue. “It’s really about white supremacy,” said Petersen, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University. “They did not exclude Jewish candidates because of specific religious concerns or because they were specifically anti-Semitic. They did it because they wanted to maintain Stanford as a country club for white Anglo-Saxons. He said other groups of applicants, including black or Latino students, might also have faced similar exclusion.

Rabbi Jessica Kirschner, Hillel’s executive director at Stanford, said in an email that “for people who knew something was wrong despite official denials, to hear the university’s token leader speak the truth to out loud and apologizing is validation, and maybe even healing.”

She said the university’s response on Wednesday was “an example of what a productive institutional apology looks like,” noting how “a new generation of Stanford leaders took the evidence seriously, instructed a robust task force and did not flinch when his findings did not reflect well on the institution.”

“This Task Force shines a light on an important part of American history that is easy to forget: that anti-Semitism was often widespread, overt, and deeply rooted,” said Eric Fingerhut, President and Chief director of the Jewish Federations of North America and a Stanford alumnus. “Most importantly, it is a reminder that even as discrimination against Jews continues to evolve, lurk or hide, it remains a powerful and insidious force that must be fought. It’s important for institutions like Stanford University to address uncomfortable parts of their history, and we appreciate their efforts and will do our part to help them right this historic wrong.

Sophia Danielpour and Ashlee Kupor, co-presidents of the Stanford Jewish Student Association, said in an email that while they were “disappointed” with this aspect of the university’s history, they ” also appreciated that Stanford allowed a thorough discovery process and issued a real apology.

They said they hoped the findings would spur “tangible change,” including awareness of major Jewish holidays in relation to the academic calendar and a “blind spot” in diversity and inclusion efforts. school “which do not always include religious minorities”.

In his memo to the school, Tessier-Lavigne wrote that Stanford will implement a number of the task force’s recommendations, including addressing the “deeply regrettable” scheduling of the start of Stanford’s fall term during Rosh Hashanah. , the Jewish New Year, which occurred last month. Stanford will also create a permanent Jewish advisory committee, he said.

Tessier-Lavigne added that “it would be natural to wonder if any of the historical anti-Jewish biases documented by the task force exist in our admissions process today. We are convinced that is not the case.

April Bethea contributed to this report.