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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

Do Racial Preferences in U.S. College Admissions Process Date Back to Ivy League Attempts to Limit Jewish Enrollment?

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Much of what we know about the college admissions process in the United States -- eg. requiring interviews to gauge "character"; seeking diversity of interest; looking for "geographic diversity" – are not timeless features of American higher education. They were actually implemented in the early 20th century to keep their Jewish populations down.

This was one of many ways these schools tried to maintain their WASP character. Columbia University created separate campus in Brooklyn from 1928 to 1938 where they tried to send Jews and other undesirable minorities, to keep the main, uptown campus a space for its wealthy, Protestant students. At Dartmouth, a professor told a Jewish students in the 1950s that anti-Jewish quotas were necessary, or else the campus would be "swimming in Jews."

Today’s guest is Mark Oppenheimer. He is a former New York Times religion columnist, author, and host of a new podcast series called Gatecrashers: The Hidden History of Jews and the Ivy League, in which he explores why we apply to college the way we do and how the Jewish experience in the Ivy League shaped American higher education and America at large.

He shares how much has changed at the elite colleges since the 1920s, the strides that have been made, and the parallels between the college experience then and how “diversity” is achieved now.
October 11, 2022
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to
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