Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne issued a formal apology to the Jewish community for the university’s historic bias against Jewish students, according to an Oct. 12 letter published in the Stanford Report.
The university set up a task force in January to research allegations that in the 1950s Stanford restricted the admission of Jewish students. The task force was formed in response to a 1953 college memo, which was previously reported in an August 2021 blog post titled “How I Discovered Stanford’s Jewish Quota,” by Charles Petersen. The university also asked the task force to make recommendations on improving current Jewish life on campus.
The historical investigation based on the task force’s records resulted in a 75-page report that found the university suppressed Jewish undergraduate admissions in the 1950s and spent years denying that discrimination had taken place.
In 1953, Rixford Snyder, the university’s director of admissions, reported his concerns about the number of Jewish students on campus to Frederic Glover, assistant to Stanford president Wallace Sterling. In his account to Sterling of the conversation, Glover noted Snyder’s desire “to disregard our stated policy of paying no regard to the race or religion of applicants.”
Glover supported Snyder’s intentions.
“I told him that I thought his present policy made sense, that it was a matter requiring the utmost discretion,” Glover wrote in 1953.
He said Snyder was concerned about two Southern California high schools he knew had significant numbers of Jewish students: Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax High School.
The task force report found a sharp drop in student enrollment at the two schools immediately after, but not at the others — evidence that the university took steps to suppress admission of Jewish students, it said. Tessier-Lavigne.
It is unclear how long Snyder might have acted against the admission of Jewish students, but the effect was particularly felt among Southern California Jews. They developed a widely held understanding that Stanford had a “quota” on Jewish students, the task force said.
University administrators have also denied bias.
“Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, when alumni, the AntiDefamation League, and at least one administrator raised concerns with Glover, Sterling, or Snyder, they were fired and denied. Glover and Snyder’s written responses took advantage of the literal definition of ‘quota’ and the discretion built into Stanford’s admissions policies to distort what they knew to be otherwise true: that they collaborated to suppress the number of Jewish students enrolling at Stanford,” the task force wrote.
Tessier-Lavigne said it was time to admit the anti-Jewish bias.
“This ugly component of Stanford’s history, confirmed by this new report, is saddening and deeply disturbing. As a university, we must recognize and confront it as a part of our history, however repugnant it may be, and seek to do better,” he said.
“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 denial of those actions in the period that followed. Those actions were wrong. They were harmful. And they were ignored for too long. Today we must work to do better , not just to atone for past wrongs, but to provide the support and bias-free experience for members of our Jewish community that we seek for all members of our Stanford community,” Tessier-Lavigne said.
The university has accepted the task force’s recommendations and will begin implementing them, with one modification: The task force has recommended additional study of contemporary Jewish life at Stanford. Tessier-Lavigne said the university will go beyond a study and set up a permanent Jewish advisory committee made up of students, staff, faculty and alumni. The advisory committee would work with the Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access, and Community and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life to address the needs of the Jewish community and work with campus offices to take measures.
“We believe this approach will provide a more dynamic, action-oriented and sustainable way to address these needs than a single study would,” he said.
Additionally, Stanford noted a series of other changes it intends to implement. It will conduct anti-bias and related trainings that will include anti-Semitism as one of the areas of anti-bias education. The university began the fall semester on Rosh Hashanah this year; Academic Council committees will work to avoid the same occurrence in future years and academic calendars will require approval from the Faculty Senate, he said.
The university’s Residential & Dining Enterprises and Residential Education units worked with Hillel, a religious organization that serves and supports students, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and students to better meet the religious and cultural needs of Jewish students , including a kosher dining program. Units intend to increase efforts to ensure students are informed about the program and to bolster other resources to meet the needs of Jewish students, he said. The university also plans to work more closely with Hillel, which is not an official Stanford entity but provides support and services to members of the Stanford community.
Stanford University Student Associates also said they would implement a 2019 resolution passed by the Undergraduate Senate to combat anti-Semitism on campus, he said.
“It would be natural to ask whether any of the historical anti-Jewish biases documented by the task force exist in our admissions process today. We are confident that this is not the case. We welcome and we seek to support a thriving Jewish community at Stanford as part of our diverse community of students and scholars from all walks of life,” Tessier-Lavigne said.
“Secondly, this report is part of our work to confront our institutional history,” he said, noting that some buildings and streets on campus have been renamed in recent years and would continue to address concerns from multiple constituencies. of the campus as part of an ongoing effort.
“Finally, I express my great appreciation for the work of the task force that produced this report, and for the academic archivists who provided critical support. We asked members of the task force to investigate this serious and sensitive issue through investigative studies, with an unwavering commitment to reviewing the historical record as they found it, they did so, and they provided advice essential to the ongoing and necessary efforts of the university to support members of our Jewish community,” he said.
The letter was greeted with appreciation by Rabbi Jessica Kirschner, executive director of Hillel at Stanford.
“On behalf of Hillel at Stanford, I want to raise President Tessier-Lavigne’s apology as a notable example of teshuvah – an acknowledgment of past wrongdoing and a clear and specific commitment to ensure a supportive and bias-free experience at Stanford. This is what we want for everyone in the Stanford community,” she said in an Oct. 12 statement.
“At a time when many of us fear the judgment of others, it takes courage to commission a report like this, accept its recommendations for change, and share it publicly. We salute that courage and the work of the task force , a group of Stanford faculty, students, alumni, and staff who revealed the truth.”