Stanford University apologized Wednesday for restricting admissions of Jewish students in the 1950s and then denying such a practice existed in the years that followed.
Apologies come after a task force appointed by the rector of the university in January carried out archival work report which revealed that Stanford had taken steps to remove its admission of Jewish students.
“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 to the 1950s and for the university’s denials of those actions in the 1950s period that followed,” Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a letter to the community. “These actions were wrong. They were damaging. And they’ve been ignored for too long.
The report is part of an effort by Stanford to confront its institutional history that has also included renaming certain campus buildings and streets in recent years, according to Tessier-Lavigne.
The university said it will “acknowledge and apologise” as well as “explore, educate and enforce” the recommendations made by the working group to look into the matter.
The report focuses on a 1953 college memo written by college administrators who were concerned about the number of Jewish students admitted to Stanford, as well as a drop in enrollment at two Southern California high schools known to have a large Jewish population: Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax High School.
As news spread among California Jews that Stanford might limit the number of Jewish students it admits, university management denied the claims and “took advantage of the literal definition of ‘quota.'” , wrote the authors of the report.
“In letters and in public, campus leadership asserted that Stanford had no ‘quota,’ while senior members of the administration were well aware of the policies in place designed to allow the director of admissions to act. to remove the number of Jewish students admitted,” the report said.
School officials don’t know how long the “appalling anti-Semitic activity” lasted or if it spread to other schools or students, Tessier-Lavigne said. “However, the report explains how this effort to remove Jewish enrollment had lasting effects and deterred some Jewish students from applying to Stanford in subsequent years,” he said.
“This ugly component of the Stanford story, confirmed by this new report, is saddening and deeply disturbing,” Tessier-Lavigne said. “As a university, we must recognize and confront it as part of our history, however repugnant it may be, and seek to do better.”
Along with its investigation, the task force made a number of recommendations to improve Jewish life on campus. These include providing anti-bias education on anti-Semitism and giving greater attention to Jewish religious observances in university curricula, housing and dining.
The report says that while this may have been “fairly limited action” in the 1950s, it had far-reaching effects on the size of Stanford’s Jewish population and the school’s reputation among California Jews.
The impact on Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax High School was “immediate and striking”. The number of students the two schools sent to Stanford dropped precipitously in the years after the 1953 memo, the task force found.
“How long this practice remained in place is also unknown. If it was ever written, these memos have not survived. But the impact lasted for decades, largely refracted by the understanding, popular among Southern California Jews, that Stanford was limiting the number of Jewish students it would admit,” the report said.
Tessier-Lavigne in his letter said it would be natural to ask whether anti-Jewish bias still exists in Stanford’s admissions process today, and that “we are confident that it does not. “.
After the president’s apology, Rabbi Jessica Kirschner sent a letter to Hillel, a Jewish student organization, commending Stanford for commissioning the report, apologizing for its findings, and pledging to implement the task force’s recommendations.
“On behalf of Hillel at Stanford, I want to offer President Tessier Lavigne’s apology as a notable example of an institutional teshuvah – an acknowledgment of past wrongdoings and a clear and specific commitment to ensuring a positive and bias-free experience at Stanford. That’s what we want for everyone in the Stanford community,” Kirschner said.