Although Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856 – 1943) enjoyed a long tenure as the president of Harvard University (1909 – 1933), his reign there was not entirely free from controversy. Among the few unpleasantness associated with his term was one in which he stated that Jewish enrollment to the university should be confined to an admissions quota that should not exceed the 15-percent mark. This brief article addresses the topic (and seemed to side with President Lowell) bringing up an exchange of letters that passed between Lowell and a Jewish alumnus, who is simply identified as "Graduate Benesch".
An article in which Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856 – 1943) attempted to avoid the obvious topic involving his wish to admit Jews by quota and keep their numbers limited to a particularly low proportion.
Lowell worried that living on campus with a significant number of Jews would poison the social experience of the members of the Protestant elite and cause them to send their sons elsewhere, just as the New York City social set turned away from Columbia in the century's first decade. In 1923, President Lowell came up with a politically palatable solution: he limited the size of the incoming class to one thousand, which meant incorporating an evaluation of each candidate's nonacademic qualities into the admissions decision. How "manly" was the candidate, for instance? How congenial and "clubbable"? What promise, what potential for future leadership? Over time, meritocracy won out.
A short paragraph from 1921 in which the editors of THE NATION leveled a charge at the admission departments for both New York University and Columbia for having taken steps that would reduce the number of Jewish students admitted each year. The editors believed that the admission tests had been rewritten in such a way as to produce predictably lower scores among Jewish applicants:
"...Columbia authorities have not denied that in the two years following application of the new tests the percentage of Jews admitted fell from 40 to 22."
An article concerning a nasty spat between Yale Jews and Yale gentiles, and when all was said and done and the dust had settled, no one came out looking terribly intelligent.