Letters to the Editor: What Stanford’s anti-Jewish bias looked like on campus in the 1950s
Stanford University’s decision to award the Nobel Prize in medicine to the Israeli physician who helped treat babies born with congenital heart disease is, in the words of the New York Times, “the most significant academic award in the history of the Nobel Committee.” And this story is only the beginning of the story.
If you have followed Stanford during the past quarter-century, or seen it in the years since, you know that it has a long history of anti-Jewish bias that goes back at least as far as its first graduate year. This includes the infamous expulsion of Jewish students in 1951.
I was a graduate student at Stanford in the late 1950s. I arrived on campus in January 1952, and after getting a job at Stanford by “paying my way” in a student-aid job, I decided to explore the possibility of doing graduate work in Stanford’s history of science department.
I found there was a very large Jewish student body, and not only was there no department on the history of science, there was no history of science department. Stanford’s history of science department was the department of chemistry, and the department of chemistry was then called the Department of Biochemistry.
I was told that by “paying my way,” I had to go through a year of graduate school. I then went to Stanford’s office of graduate admissions and was told to go through the same process that had been run over 100 years before. I was told that I could not be a Jew. I was told that if I did not agree to go through the process the same way all the other Jewish students had, then I could not be enrolled in the graduate programs in the History of Science Department and the departments of Biology and Chemistry.
My response to this was to say that if that was the way things were done then, why did I come to Stanford at all? And it was this, among other reasons, that I was not enrolled in graduate courses at Stanford the next year.
In 1953, the first year I tried to enroll in a graduate course offered by Stanford, I sent two of my letters to the office of the Provost. I wrote to him asking to be enrolled in my class in the History of Science Department