Stanford University apologized on Wednesday for limiting Jewish student admissions during the 1950s, a practice the university had long denied.
Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne issued the apology after a task force he appointed in January submitted a report finding that the prestigious Northern California school had taken actions to suppress Jewish student admissions just years after WWII ended.
“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 Jewish student admission in the 1950s and for the university’s denials of those actions in the period that followed,” Tessier-Lavigne said in a letter sent to the school’s community. “These actions were wrong. They were damaging. And they were unacknowledged for too long.”
According to the report, Stanford “acted to restrict the number of Jewish students” enrolling at the school in the early 1950s, under the leadership of Rixford Snyder, then-director of admissions, and “with the awareness of many in Stanford’s administration.”
Stanford had targeted specific high schools known to have significant Jewish student populations, allowing the university to still “claim that the university did not impose a quota on Jewish students,” according to the report.
Despite “decades of denials,” a 1953 memo dubbed the “Glover Memo” clearly reported Snyder’s “intentions to act against Jewish students,” according to the report.
According to the report, Frederic Glover, then the assistant to Stanford president Wallace Sterling at the time, conveyed Snyder’s “desire to ‘disregard our stated policy of paying no attention to the race or religion of applicants'” in the memo.
Snyder was particularly concerned about two Southern California high schools with a high concentration of Jewish students, according to Glover: Beverly Hills High School and Fairfax High School.
“We don’t know whether Snyder took action against any other schools or students who identified themselves as Jewish on their applications, regardless of high school,” according to the report. “But we found a sharp drop in enrollments from these two schools in the class that started Stanford in the fall of 1953. No other schools experienced such a sharp reduction in students enrolling at Stanford at that time.”
“It is unclear how long this heinous antisemitic activity lasted or whether it spread to other schools or students,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. “However, the report explains how the effort to suppress Jewish enrollments had long-term consequences, discouraging some Jewish students from applying to Stanford in subsequent years. Furthermore, the report shows that when questioned about its admissions practices later on, the university denied any anti-Jewish bias.”
“This ugly aspect of Stanford’s history, confirmed by this new report,” he said, “is saddening and deeply troubling.” “As a university, we must acknowledge and confront it, as repulsive as it is, as a part of our history, and strive to do better.”
Tessier-Lavigne stated that it is “natural to wonder whether any of the historical anti-Jewish bias documented by the task force exists in our admission process today.”
“We are certain it does not,” he stated.
According to The Mercury News, which is based in San Jose, California, Executive Director Rabbi Jessica Kirschner said on behalf of Hillel at Stanford, a Jewish student organization, “I want to lift up President Tessier Lavigne’s apology as a notable example of institutional teshuvah — an acknowledgment of past wrongdoing and clear and specific commitment to ensure a supportive and bias-free experience at Stanford.”
“This is what we want for all members of the Stanford community,” she said, according to the outlet. NBC News has contacted Hillel at Stanford for comment.
Tessier-apology Lavigne’s comes as Stanford attempts to right historical wrongs and faces scrutiny over other issues, including mounting safety concerns following two rapes on the Northern California campus in as many months.
In 2016, the trial and lenient sentence of swim team member Brock Turner, who was convicted of three felonies after sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, shook Stanford’s campus.