Years ago when my mother applied to one of the elite private prep schools in the state, the interviewer asked her parents if given her last name (which was not McNeil at the time), she was Jewish. When they answered yes, the interviewer promptly drew a life size bagel in red ink on the application. Although the interview continued on briefly, with assurances that she was a fine applicant and that a decision would be reached after careful consideration – it was clear that she would not gain admission. That scarlet bagel, as she would later call it, represented her own personal experience with bigoted admission policies that sought to limit the number of Jews who gained admission to the nation’s best schools – a disturbingly common practice at the time.

Paul Wong

Such policies are, one would expect, remnants from another time. In fact Jews, while only 2 percent of the population, they account for 23 percent of the students at Ivy League schools. It would seem we have moved well beyond the vestiges of discrimination in which bright young applicants are branded with bagels or other demeaning ethnic markers.

But as Judge Danny Boggs noted in his dissent from the recent 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, “a significant portion” of the candidates to the University’s Law School who are turned down because of the Law School’s racial quotas are Jewish applicants. The reason? Because in order to maintain the “critical mass” of less qualified minority students, many of the best applicants are turned away. Apparently being a Jewish student is less valuable to the Law School’s “diversity” than is an underrepresented minority whose experience is akin to, according to the Law School, that of someone who has attained a physics Ph.D or gained 30 years of professional work experience.

The Law School, in their quest to construct entering classes according to ethnic and racial “representation” in the population are very dissatisfied when Jews have stepped well beyond their “allotment” and gained nearly a quarter of all spots at Ivy League schools – to the demise of the “underrepresented.” Apparently the Law School will continue to deny admission to students simply because they are Jewish until they can achieve a more accurate “representation” – i.e. around a few percent. What ethnic marker does the Law School admission office draw on Jewish applications? Have they returned to scarlet bagels?

Apparently they do not have to. According to the Wall Street Journal, testing companies, including the College Board, the maker of the Scholastic Aptitude Test and many other standardized tests, have begun asking test takers to list their religous faith.

They then market this information to colleges and universities who are bent on controlling access by a few specified groups beyond racial classifications and some who even actively recruit certain categories. For example, Vanderbilt University recently announced an “elite strategy” to target Jewish students in order to boost its rankings closer toward Ivy League status. The “strategy” targets Jews because of their staggering “overrepresentation” in the Ivy Leagues and the fact that of all reported faiths for the SAT, Jews scored the second highest on average. Admissions officers no longer have to draw red bagels on applications when companies can sell them sophisticated reports.

Institutions of higher education have seemingly returned us to a time when applicants are branded according to racial and ethnic categories that weigh far greater upon their chances of admission than their accomplishments or talent. It would seem that affirmative action and anti-Semitism have disturbingly similar objectives. It is time to end this madness.

Kevin McNeil can be reached at kmcneil@umich.edu.

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