Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne apologized to the Jewish community this week on behalf of the school after research revealed that Stanford purposefully excluded Jews for part of the 20th century and then repeatedly lied about doing so.
“These actions were wrong. They were damaging. And they were unacknowledged for too long. Today, we must work to do better, not only to atone for the wrongs of the past, but to ensure the supportive and bias-free experience for members of our Jewish community that we seek for all members of our Stanford community,” he said in a statement released Wednesday.
Tessier-Lavigne’s apology came after a task force comprised of Stanford stakeholders uncovered evidence that university administrators circulated a memo in 1953 raising concerns about the number of Jewish students on campus.
In response to the memo, the school adjusted its admissions practices.
“Subsequent efforts were made to limit recruitment and admissions from two particular schools in the Los Angeles area whose student populations were ‘from 95 to 98% Jewish,’ according to the report. Though Stanford did not track the number of Jewish students specifically, enrollment from these schools dropped precipitously,” NPR reported.
In addition to studying the past, the task force made recommendations for the future. It asked Stanford leaders to take a series of steps to “enhance” Jewish life on campus.
“The recommendations took shape around the historical research that was supplemented by preliminary interviews and focus groups with students that took place during the 2022 Winter and Spring quarters,” the task force report explained.
Tessier-Lavigne agreed to make essentially all of the recommended changes, which include adjusting the university calendar to make room for the celebration of Jewish holidays and adding antisemitism training to campus diversity initiatives.
The school will also create a “standing Jewish advisory committee” to address ongoing challenges and respond to the needs of Jewish students, Tessier-Lavigne said.
Sophia Danielpour, co-president of Stanford’s Jewish Student Association, told NPR that these actions and the apology are “important” but that additional work is needed to understand the ripple effects of the discriminatory admissions policy.
“The task force was only commissioned to look at this one specific time,” she said.