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Obstacles to Learning


Profiles in Learning | Obstacles to Learning | Harry Golden | Open & Learn

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Obstacles to Learning

Some Jews Are “Acceptable”: University Quotas

Jews’ thirst for education led them to apply to universities in disproportionate numbers in the early 1900s. Universities, led by Harvard and Columbia, responded with quotas to limit Jewish enrollment.

While Southern schools tended to be more open, discrimination was felt here too, especially in professional schools. Duke maintained a quota of three percent in the 1930s. North Carolina Women’s College (now UNC Greensboro) and UNC Chapel Hill were the schools of choice for most Jewish students. Discriminatory barriers began falling decisively in the 1960s.


The Jewish “Problem” at UNC

In 1933 Morris Krasny complained that UNC had rejected his medical school application because of a Jewish quota. Medical school dean Isaac Manning said that he accepted just four Jewish students, 10% of the enrollment, because Jews would have difficulty finding places in four-year medical schools after attending UNC’s two-year program. Insisting that the policy was not based on prejudice, Manning invoked academic freedom and standards. He won the support of alumni groups and all but one of UNC’s medical faculty.

Manning’s memoirs express concern about a Jewish problem. Some Jews he found “acceptable,” but he did not want UNC overrun with Jews and felt that a Gentile would not want a Jew for a laboratory partner. He favored “rigid measures” against “exceedingly objectionable” Jewish students who changed their names or forged transcripts to gain admittance. UNC President Frank Graham overruled Manning and admitted Krasny. Manning resigned as dean although not from the faculty.


Confronting the “Christian Tenure Policy”

In 1977 Davidson College withdrew its job offer to political scientist Ronald Linden because he could not honor the school’s “church-related” mission and meet its “Christian tenure policy.” Some 300 students and twenty faculty marched in protest. The North Carolina General Assembly threatened to draft legislation to deny tax money to any school that had “discriminatory policies.” The college changed its rules in all departments except Psychology, Philosophy, and Religion. In 2005 Davidson agreed to have non-Christians serve on its board of trustees.


Remembering University Quotas

  • From 1930 to 1937, Duke held Jewish undergraduate enrollment to three percent or less.
  • UNC had a “subtle method of segregation-deliberately placing Jewish students in rooms together,” Allard Lowenstein and Douglass Hunt recall. “Certain people,” one UNC administrator explained, “would prefer to be together.” Hunt informed UNC President Frank Graham, who put an end to the policy.
  • UNC’s admissions and placement offices included a religious preference question on their forms. The placement offices continued to ask about religious preference until 1955. Duke asked applicants to specify their religion until the early 1960s.
  • College fraternities and sororities in North Carolina remained segregated into Jewish and Gentile houses until the 1960s and 1970s when anti-discrimination laws ended the practice.
  • “My father was a 1952 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UNC. He always said that his four years there were the happiest time of his life. But he also told me about blatant anti-Semitism. This included a professor who told him that his work was at the A level, but he didn’t give As to Jews,” remembers Bonnie F. Wexler, UNC class of 1974

Boycotting at Davidson Morris Krasny (2) Morris Krasny


Working Our Way to College: Poverty and Opportunity    We Were Different: Adapting to a Strange Land



No Skullcaps Allowed: Religion in the Schools    Some Jews are Acceptable: University Quotas