indecisionwins: (Default)
[personal profile] indecisionwins
So in looking at my copies of old Phoenix articles from 1948 and 1949, so I could describe to [livejournal.com profile] baaaaaaaaaah what happened with Jewish admissions quotas at Swarthmore in a little more detail, it turns out that I had remembered part of the story wrong from when I last looked at these articles a couple of years ago. It turns out that the person who was defending having admissions quotas for Jews, with some statements that sound really bad out of context, and not much better in context, was Everett Hunt, the Dean at the time, not the President of the college. (At least, in this article--I still remember seeing some quotes from John Nason about this, but not in the articles I have here.) The problem is, Everett Hunt is also the author of my favorite book about Swarthmore, "Revolt of the College Intellectual." Actually, his book is really the source for a lot of my idealized vision of Swarthmore. Obviously, the fact that he thought having too many Jews would be detrimental to Swarthmore doesn't mean I can't like his book, but it does make me think. Mostly about the fact that it's probably the same tendency for overgeneralization that makes me enjoy his book so much that also leads him to be somewhat prejudiced. (At least, one person who was at his speech where he defended the admissions quotas said that he needs to follow the principle of "respect for the individual as a unique being in his own right," which I think is a more eloquent way of saying that he really overgeneralized.) And, of course, I'm aware that I myself really like to overgeneralize... I don't think that's always a bad thing, and I'm not going to say that I need to stop doing it, because if I did, I wouldn't have much interesting to say. But it is sobering to be reminded how overgeneralization leads to views that really aren't so good.

Oh, and to describe the issue itself, for people who are curious... Basically, there was a pretty significant number of Jews at Swarthmore in 1948, but they made sure to limit it to, at that point, 14% of the population (where it had been 6% at one time), when there were enough qualified Jews that they could have admitted more. The reason, as paraphrased by the Phoenix, is that they have to maintain Swarthmore as a particular type of community, and "he felt that the duty of the admissions committee was to select students in such a manner as would be most beneficial to the life of this community." "He went on to say that any group such as the Jews would, after a long period of being persecuted, acquire certain aggressive characteristics, and that if as many Jews were admitted to Swarthmore as would be proportionate to the number of Jewish applicants, these characteristics would manifest themselves in a manner not only harmful to the Swarthmore community, but also harmful to the Jews themselves. This was the argument used in defending the "restrictive principle" applied by the admissions committee regarding Jewish applicants" --The Phoenix, Dec. 14, 1949. For the record, the Phoenix had an editorial that was strongly against the quotas, and the students were against them also. So I'm guessing they were probably removed at some point not all that long after that...

But yeah... I mean, I would actually say that the basic idea of wanting to keep the community a certain way makes some sense, even if I obviously don't like the generalizations that he makes about Jews. And apparently (according to the short thing about it on Elizabeth Weber's Swarthmore history page, here, which was where I found out that these articles existed in the first place), most private colleges had Jewish admissions quotas at that point. But still...

Date: 2005-11-08 12:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baaaaaaaaaah.livejournal.com
shouldn't you be doing something more productive instead of this?

Date: 2005-11-08 04:37 pm (UTC)
ext_248645: (Default)
From: [identity profile] indecisionwins.livejournal.com
Yeah... I really should have been... But I couldn't resist posting about this.

Date: 2005-11-08 11:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sildra.livejournal.com
I don't know about now, but the Jewish quota at Smith was 10% when my grandmother was there (1928-1932) and still 10% when my mother was there (1971-1975). That was pretty high in my grandmother's time, and pretty average in my mother's time. A 14% Jewish quota does not sound at all low to me, especially before the mid-60's.

Date: 2005-11-09 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arctangent.livejournal.com
In this context, at least (and probably in others) Asians are the New Jews.

You should hear the current brouhaha in the UC system about how, after they switched the admissions process to *only* objective criteria (only the SATs and GPA) Asians suddenly became the majority -- not the biggest minority, not the plurality, but the majority -- at several UC schools.

Maybe I'm paranoid, but when I hear them talking about reinstating subjective requirements (essay, interview, etc.) in the process to do some social engineering and create a more "diverse" student body I hear "Get rid of all these fucking Asians".

But, of course, approaching it from the other direction, I *do* sympathize with efforts to get rid of the kind of person this kind of Asian student is likely to be, at least in that I personally find them kind of annoying and have spent my whole life trying not to be one. I don't think it's much like the stereotype of Jewish people now, but I'd certainly buy that it's similar to Jewish people then -- and I'd argue that *any* ethnic minority that's had to struggle in the past and is suddenly now living in a time of copious economic opportunity is going to act in a way Hunt wouldn't like.

And even if I personally don't like being around that kind of person, when you really think about it being like a Swattie is the result of being a child of privilege, and you really do have a blinkered view of what life is like if you surround yourself with starry-eyed idealists who think money and opportunities to Change the World are supposed to just fall into their laps. Look at the bickering between idealists and pragmatists -- usually full-ticket tuition payers vs. financial-aid recipients -- today. So it is pretty damn annoying to claim that these "aggressive" people have some kind of personality flaw instead of have priorities that are an honest product of their time and place -- a kind of diversity that's more important, in my mind, than having lots and lots of Swattie idealists whose skins are different colors.

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Michael

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