But … But … She Didn't Compete Unfairly Against Asians and Jews!

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With all the Miers-related talk about East Coast snobbery, it's useful to remind Ivy-worshippers everywhere that, as Malcolm Gladwell spells out in the New Yorker, Harvard's fabled admissions standards were explicitly crafted to discourage Jews.

By 1922, [Jews] made up more than a fifth of Harvard's freshman class. The administration and alumni were up in arms. Jews were thought to be sickly and grasping, grade-grubbing and insular. They displaced the sons of wealthy Wasp alumni, which did not bode well for fund-raising. A. Lawrence Lowell, Harvard's president in the nineteen-twenties, stated flatly that too many Jews would destroy the school: "The summer hotel that is ruined by admitting Jews meets its fate … because they drive away the Gentiles, and then after the Gentiles have left, they leave also."

The solution? Replace the simple entrance test with a complicated patchwork of evaluations encompassing "leadership," "character," "religious preference," "race," "birthplace of father" … that kind of thing. The results were a smashing success—the Jew never did overtake the WASP—and the basic set-up of this unseemly system, with its entrance essays and enclosed photos and extra-curricular bon bons, remains largely in place today. Gladwell's last paragraph:

In the nineteen-eighties, when Harvard was accused of enforcing a secret quota on Asian admissions, its defense was that once you adjusted for the preferences given to the children of alumni and for the preferences given to athletes, Asians really weren't being discriminated against. But you could sense Harvard's exasperation that the issue was being raised at all. If Harvard had too many Asians, it wouldn't be Harvard, just as Harvard wouldn't be Harvard with too many Jews or pansies or parlor pinks or shy types or short people with big ears.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: The Bitter Taste of Vindication

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  1. …short people with big ears.

    I take exception to that!

    …and besides, worldwide the average height for men is like 5’4, so that puts me well above average, as usual.

    …and my ears are almost normal in Germany.

  2. Are you telling me the Junior Civitan club in my high school had its origins in a scheme to exclude Jews?
    As I’m consulting my high school yearbook here to fact-check, I notice the president of Junior Civitan went on to become a judge who went on to kill himself when an expose was about to break about his own corruption.

    In spite of the craziness in Dixie, many Jews led semi-happy and prosperous lives there.
    “Driving Miss Daisy” comes to mind.

    We also had a “Smoking Club” at my high school, but whoever was the president of it is long gone. Duh.
    (Terbakky was the weed of choice, I was told.)

  3. Your assertion that “the Jew never did overtake the WASP” at Harvard is untrue… in the 50s and 60s, Harvard and the Ivies changed their admissions policies to make them much more meritocratic. Steve Sailer points out:

    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2005/10/dont-they-have-fact-checkers-at-new.html

    “At GNXP.com, Godless Capitalist estimates that Jews now make up 46% of the white undergraduates at Harvard (based on Hillel’s estimate of the number of Jewish students at Harvard, which I’m not sure how much I trust), although they must be only about 3% of young whites nationwide. GC estimates that white gentiles are now the most under-represented ethnic group at Harvard, although there is some uncertainty about this.”

  4. Hmmm, preference to legacies who’s parents were admitted under plainly biased plans. Nope, no racial bias in that plan.

  5. First the Jews attended Harvard, and I did not speak out.
    Then the Jews sailed in the regatta, but still I did not speak out.
    Now, a Jew is escorting Muffy to The Cotillion and I had to take my cousin, Mindy.

  6. Mitch’s last post is so much funnier when you imagine it being said by Thurston Howell III or William F. Buckley Jr (Yeah, yeah, I know. Bucky was a Yaley.).

  7. Good one Mitch.

    What *isn’t* funnier being said by Thurston Howell III?

    If I imagine something being said by William F. Buckley I immediately fall sleep.

  8. Mildly interesting…
    [Chomsky] moved down the road to MIT in 1955. “Jews were barely tolerated in Harvard; they weren’t part of the cultural life. One reason MIT became so great was that Jewish intellectuals couldn’t get jobs elsewhere.”

  9. Re: Chomsky above –

    well, _yeah_! Harvard’s retardo admissions policy ultimately just hurts itself.

  10. Given the Miers hullabaloo about her attending SMU and not Harvard, I thought his point that attending the “right” school isn’t as important for future success as “whether we attended college, and – most important – how seriously we took the experience once we got there” sounds obvious to most college graduates. But I guess that silver spoon still sparkles no matter how much cocaine has been snorted or cooked off it. Of course this might just be sour grapes on my part, the closest I came to an Ivy League school was masturbating in New Hampshire one summer.

  11. Hmmm, preference to legacies who’s parents were admitted under plainly biased plans. Nope, no racial bias in that plan.

    The trivial effect of legacies is more than compensated for by the affirmative action quotas set up to pad the rolls with blacks and Hispanics. The only racial groups who suffer racial bias under Harvard’s current admission criteria are non-legacy whites and Asians

  12. They frown upon “sickly and grasping,” yet they let all those liberals in…

  13. This is mostly off-topic.

    I don’t understand the problem with the “Some of my best friends are …” comments. Like, if someone says you are prejudiced against some group. Say, Jews. If you say, “My best friend is Jewish”, suddenly you either appear MORE prejudiced, or at least have confirmed that you are, in fact, a bigot.

    How does that work? It seems like a logical counter-argument to me. Did some famous bigot make a similar quote at some point, and now anyone who says something similar is considered to be a bigot?

  14. I’ve often wondered that myself, Dumbfish. I don’t have an answer, but I’d like to establish my non-racist bona fides by pointing out that none of my friends are Samoans.

  15. I can’t be a racist, I have no friends.

  16. Dumbfish:

    “I don’t understand the problem with the “Some of my best friends are …” comments. Like, if someone says you are prejudiced against some group. Say, Jews. If you say, “My best friend is Jewish”, suddenly you either appear MORE prejudiced, or at least have confirmed that you are, in fact, a bigot.

    “How does that work? It seems like a logical counter-argument to me. Did some famous bigot make a similar quote at some point, and now anyone who says something similar is considered to be a bigot?”

    The most “famous” incident was probably that Seinfeld episode where George sought to falsely befriend black folks in order to prove to his boss that he wasn’t racist.

    Anyway, I think the reason that it makes you appear MORE racist is that it has become a cliche egt-out-of-jail-free card when someone is accused of racism. The worst part about it is that, in most contexts, like the social settings where it typically comes up, there is no immediate and sound way to verify whether the claim is true. So, someone may make a racist remark, and get called on it, and then say, “but I have black friends”…when, in reality, the closest relationship he has to a black person is that he works with one. How do you verify that?

    So, while that may actually be a valid rebuttal of claims of racism, the reason that it has, for the most part, turned inside out, is that it’s so cliche and so immediately unverifiable.

  17. “I can’t be a racist, I have no friends.”
    Twba,
    I’m sure many here strive to achieve your standard. I know I do, but, unfortunately, like Al Franken, I’m just a likeable sort, and handsome too, goshdarn it.
    In fact, some of my friends are…

  18. Ruthless, is that you? Shit, you white people all look the same to me.

  19. So let me get this straight:

    “entrance essays and enclosed photos and extra-curricular bon bons” is the same “basic set-up of this unseemly system” as looking at “religious preference,” “race,” “birthplace of father?”

    That’s a bit of a stretch.

  20. As I put it in my college application essays,
    “In addition, I’m a very good friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who knows one or two non-caucasions.”

  21. So do I. He was my least favoite Leave It To Beaver supporting character.

  22. I comedian whose name I forget summed up the bigotry thing perfectly. Paraphrased, his comment was, “Why be a racist when there are so many good reasons to hate people.”

  23. “entrance essays and enclosed photos and extra-curricular bon bons” is the same “basic set-up of this unseemly system” as looking at “religious preference,” “race,” “birthplace of father?”

    Well, photos are bullshit because what I look like has no bearing on my ability to succeed in academia. And extra-curricular crap puts at a disadvantage those kids whose schools don’t offer them, or those kids who didn’t have time to do after-school crap because they had to work.

    I see no problem with entrance essays, though.

  24. Looks like I’m having another attack of cantypeitis. That should be “A comedian”, and the quote should end with a question mark.

  25. I see no problem with entrance essays, though.

    If they’re used to see whether the person can write articulately then yeah, I’m all in favor.

    In CA, in an effort to get around a ban on affirmative action, the UC system gave consideration to personal hardship. Why give preference to the son of a black doctor while ignoring the white kid in the trailer park with 2 alcoholic parents, who nonetheless succeeds?

    Sounds great. But in the first year that they tried it, they were deluged with essays on how difficult it is to succeed when Mommy loves the younger sister more and the kids at school were mean.

    I don’t know what they did in subsequent years, but it’s a nice cautionary tale.

  26. He totally bailed on Steven Flemmi.

  27. joe,

    The goals of the admission process is to create a freshman class that meets the expectations of the Harvard administration and the rich alumni who are generous donors. They know, in todays “politically correct” environment, that they have to blend in some jews, blacks, asians, white trash, etc. or face harsh scrutiny and criticism. In fact even the most hard core WASP realizes this diversity does add a degree of vigor to the student body. It is not a stretch that the entrance essays and photographs are tools that help them “categorize” the candidates.

    I applied to a couple Ivy league schools in the spring of 1970. They required you to spend a full day (and to stay overnight) on campus to undergo a barrage of interviews and campus tours. If you did not meet some minimum level of academic achievement you were not invited for the campus visit. Once you were on campus, they exhibited no further interest in your academic background. These schools are definitely snobbish and “clubby”. However, I experienced first-hand that they were trying to select students who possessed leadership qualities, were highly motivated, and had a vision of their future and their impact on the world. I don’t think they were being altruistic. They want their graduates to succeed and have enough discretionary income to donate heavily to the endowment fund.

    It’s all about the Benjamins.

  28. joe,

    The goals of the admission process is to create a freshman class that meets the expectations of the Harvard administration and the rich alumni who are generous donors. They know, in todays “politically correct” environment, that they have to blend in some jews, blacks, asians, white trash, etc. or face harsh scrutiny and criticism. In fact even the most hard core WASP realizes this diversity does add a degree of vigor to the student body. It is not a stretch that the entrance essays and photographs are tools that help them “categorize” the candidates.

    I applied to a couple Ivy league schools in the spring of 1970. They required you to spend a full day (and to stay overnight) on campus to undergo a barrage of interviews and campus tours. If you did not meet some minimum level of academic achievement you were not invited for the campus visit. Once you were on campus, they exhibited no further interest in your academic background. These schools are definitely snobbish and “clubby”. However, I experienced first-hand that they were trying to select students who possessed leadership qualities, were highly motivated, and had a vision of their future and their impact on the world. I don’t think they were being altruistic. They want their graduates to succeed and have enough discretionary income to donate heavily to the endowment fund.

    It’s all about the Benjamins.

  29. they were deluged with essays on how difficult it is to succeed when Mommy loves the younger sister more and the kids at school were mean. I don’t know what they did in subsequent years, but it’s a nice cautionary tale.

    But I’d say even those essays would be useful (though I feel sorry for the schlub who had to read them)–if a person defines “hardship” as “having to go with my second-choice date for the prom” then I’d say that is indeed a useful bit of information to have about that person. It does tell you something about what they’re like–namely, shallow, narcissistic and bimboesque.

  30. In the past Harvard feared Jews, now they fear Asians… practicing Lightning Ju-Jitsu!

  31. Sorry about the double posts. The H&R server is keeping me down. Up against the wall, Motherufcker!

  32. Herman,
    Who wouldn’t fear Asians practicing Lightning Ju-Jitsu?

  33. Number 6 –
    That cantypeitis is contagious.

    I believe the Ivy selection/admission policies are compatible with libertarian philosophy. They are simply looking out for themselves. These universities are businesses. They want to maximize their revenue. Most of their policies are towards this end – even the admission of inferior “legacy” candidates is for the purpose of increasing donations. Their methods may be intrusive and offensive to some, but they are rational actions in pursuit of their ultimate goals.

  34. joe — Read the article; it explains better than my paraphrasing. But basically, the entrance essay & most all other non-test attempts to gauge an candidate’s “character” (athletic ability, and so on), sprung directly out of the panicked drive to keep Jew numbers down.

  35. Who wouldn’t fear Asians practicing Lightning Ju-Jitsu?
    Ruthless-
    Matt Furrey, and he’ll put that on his admissions essay to Harvard’s MBA program.

    11:45AM EST, post submitted to the Timex Sinclair comments server.

  36. I don’t dig Kaptain Kosher quite as much as I do the Hebrew Hammer. (Warning: Link has gunshot sound effects.)

    However, I did like the “Up, up and oy vey!” saying.

    Hey, has anyone tried crossbreeding a Jew and an Asian? You’d get some kind of, like, Super Jewsian Fusion. No entrance test could withstand such an ubermensch!

  37. “I believe the Ivy selection/admission policies are compatible with libertarian philosophy. They are simply looking out for themselves.”

    Crushinator, you’re thinking of Objectivists, not Libertarians. There is a slight difference. Objectivists say just look out for yourselves, because you have no moral obligations to help others. Libertarians say the _government_ shouldn’t help others, because the only just use of force (AKA government) is defending natural rights. Libertarians range from the Objectivist to altruistic and from hermits to vocal criticizers. I would defend Harvard’s right to discriminate against Jews, and Asians and oppose any law about it. However, I would also call Harvard bigoted and foolish if they reinstated quotas.

    As J pointed out. Harvard lost talent to other school, like MIT, by discriminating. Princeton also gained from the xenophobia of some Ivies. While other elite schools keep out Jews and students without an East Coast lineage, Princeton added Albert Einstein to its faculty and John Nash to its graduate school. This a major point Summer’s tried to make in his speech on women in math and science.

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