Stanford apologizes for admissions limits on Jewish students in the 1950s and pledges action on steps to enhance Jewish life on campus – Stanford…

Posted By on October 12, 2022

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne has apologized on behalf of the university and pledged to act on recommendations of a task force report that identified efforts to limit admission of Jewish students in the 1950s.

Stanford will present the report of the Advisory Task Force on the History of Jewish Admissions and Experience at Stanford University at noon PDT Thursday, Oct. 13.View the livestream here.

In findings released Wednesday, a task force appointed by Tessier-Lavigne reported that Stanford administrators took steps to limit admissions of Jewish students in the 1950s and regularly misled parents and friends of applicants, alumni, outside investigators, and trustees who asked about such admissions practices.

The task force, consisting of faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and students, also provided a number of recommendations both to address actions by past administrators and to support the universitys Jewish community today, especially in light of the panels findings.

In addition to calling on the university to acknowledge and apologize for the admissions practices and subsequent denials in the past, the task force recommended enhanced education and training to address biases; greater attention to Jewish religious observances in university scheduling, housing, and dining; enforcement of an Undergraduate Senate resolution on antisemitism; and clarification of the universitys relationship with Stanford Hillel.

In a university-wide communication, Tessier-Lavigne apologized on behalf of the university and pledged action on the recommendations.

This ugly component of Stanfords history, confirmed by this new report, is saddening and deeply troubling, Tessier-Lavigne wrote.

On behalf of Stanford University 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 universitys denials of those actions in the period that followed. These actions were wrong. They were damaging. And they were unacknowledged for too long. Today, we must work to do better, not only to atone for the wrongs of the past, but to ensure the supportive and bias-free experience for members of our Jewish community that we seek for all members of our Stanford community.

Tessier-Lavigne also announced the university will offer a webinar on the findings at noon PDT Thursday, Oct. 13. Professor Ari Y. Kelman, a social scientist and leading expert on Jewish life in America who chaired the task force, will present the task force report.

Tessier-Lavigne appointed the Advisory Task Force on the History of Jewish Admissions and Experience at Stanford University in January. The charge called on task force members to address lingering assertions, including a report in an online newsletter last year, about admissions quotas aimed at limiting Jewish applicants.

Admittedly, this is a difficult undertaking because the efforts to suppress the number of Jewish students at Stanford in the 1950s do not map easily onto contemporary expressions of antisemitism, the task force wrote. There are, however, continuities, and they provide an opportunity for the university to learn from its history and to inaugurate new directions for addressing some of the core concerns shared by both the past and the present.

The task force identified a group of administrators who participated in and/or were aware of efforts to limit admissions of Jewish students. They included Rixford K. Snyder, who was admissions director for 20 years. Snyder played a central role in efforts to limit the number of Jewish students at Stanford, the report states.

A crucial piece of the review was a university memo written in 1953 to then-President Wallace Sterling from his assistant, Fred Glover. The memos existence was first identified in the online newsletter last year and confirmed by the panel.

The memo focused on the number of Jewish students being admitted to Stanford. At the time, Stanford drew heavily from the West Coast, California in particular, for students. Glover listed two high schools in Los Angeles Beverly Hills and Fairfax whose student populations were from 95 to 98% Jewish, and said that accepting a few from those schools would be followed by a flood of Jewish applications the next year. Glover cited Snyders concern that more than one quarter of the applications from men are from Jewish boys during that admissions cycle.

Rix feels that this problem is loaded with dynamite and he wanted you to know about it, as he says that the situation forces him to disregard our stated policy of paying no attention to the race or religion of applicants, Glover wrote.

Subsequently, the report states, Snyder ended recruitment efforts at those schools and appears to have taken other steps that had more direct and measurable effects, visible only in a close analysis of the annual reports of the Registrars office.

Task force members examined Office of the Registrar records and found a sharp drop in the number of students enrolled at Stanford from those schools 87 enrolled during 1949-1952, but only 14 in 1952-55 that was not seen in any other public schools during the 1950s and 1960s. (The panel said existing records did not specify the number of Jewish students, and records indicating the number of applicants and acceptances from that period were not retained.)

The impact was immediate and striking, the report states.

Whether the university took similar actions with other schools is unclear. And the task force report notes that there was no evidence that the Stanford admissions director who followed Snyder employed a quota of any kind on anyone. But the task force said that Snyders actions had far-reaching effects and that suspicions and speculation about quotas among the Jewish community, in Southern California in particular, had significant repercussions.

Snyders actions, however limited they may have been, dissuaded some Jewish students from applying in the first place, task force members wrote. The impression of Stanfords restrictions outlived whatever actions Snyder had taken.

The report states that Snyder operated with the support, tacit and explicit, of others in the administration and his intentions with respect to Jewish applicants were not a secret among Stanfords leadership.

The university began receiving questions about an anti-Jewish bias as early as December 1954, just two admissions cycles after Glover wrote the memo. Over the years, inquiries came from a judge who was a Stanford alumnus, alumni, parents, trustees, and the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith.

The university consistently denied the allegations, including this response from Sterling to an alumna: Stanford has no quotas of any kind, racial, religious or geographic. It follows, therefore, that there are no quotas for Catholics or Jews. Statements or rumors to the contrary are wholly false.

The recommendations of the task force focus on two categories: acknowledge and apologize and explore, educate, and enforce.

In Judaism, the process of (teshuva) implies both reflection on the past and the initiation of different action in the future, the panel wrote, referring to the foundational practice of the High Holy Day season. Thus, our recommendations begin with an acknowledgement of the universitys past misdeeds to build toward a better future for the whole Stanford community.

The task force called on the current university administration as reflected in Tessier-Lavignes letter to publicly acknowledge and apologize for actions to suppress Jewish admissions and mislead people who asked about them.

Recommendations for enhancing contemporary Jewish life on campus and the responses outlined by Tessier-Lavigne are:

The task force observed that the damage described in the report students unduly denied admission in the 1950s-60s, the tarnishing of the universitys reputation, and decades of denials cannot be undone. It also drew a link to other steps Stanford has taken to examine other aspects of the universitys history.

This report has endeavored to establish and clarify this historical narrative and, hopefully it has succeeded in clarifying the historical record, task force members wrote. With this effort, Stanfords leadership has demonstrated that it is prepared not just to meet the specifics of this particular case, but to do so within the larger historical context of the early 21st century.

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Stanford apologizes for admissions limits on Jewish students in the 1950s and pledges action on steps to enhance Jewish life on campus - Stanford...

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