OpinionSchools & Higher Education

Elite universities fail to make the grade

Now it’s time for parents to step up to the plate.

Pillars on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Credit: Michael Warwick/Shutterstock.
Pillars on the campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. Credit: Michael Warwick/Shutterstock.
David Gemunder. Credit: Courtesy.
David Gemunder
David Gemunder has served on the boards of several national organizations that combat antisemitism, including Hillel International, the Secure Community Network and the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation.

In the past several years, and especially in the aftermath of Oct. 7, American campuses generally have become cesspits of Jew-hatred (often flimsily disguised as “anti-Zionism”, but rank bigotry nonetheless). Students, parents and donors have been clamoring for guidance on how to respond. Now we have it.

The Anti-Defamation League just has released its Antisemitism Campus Report Card, which provides a withering assessment of conditions on America’s most elite colleges and universities. Of the 85 campuses surveyed on a letter grade basis, only two, including historically Jewish Brandeis University, received an A. Every Ivy League school except Dartmouth College performed abysmally, getting Ds and Fs (Dartmouth earned a Gentleschool’s C). Many other of the nation’s most elite and selective institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and my own alma mater—the University of Chicago—flunked out.

So, where do we go from here? The ADL has blazed the path for us admirably; now it’s our turn to step up.

One of the many dirty secrets about college admissions is that elite schools care infinitely more about their matriculation rates (that is, the percentage of accepted students who actually decide to attend) than their actual acceptance rates. Nirvana for an admissions department is a low rate of acceptance, coupled with a high rate of matriculation. After all, what’s the point of being the most selective school on the West Coast if most of your admitted students end up heading east to your competition?

What does this mean for us? Well, if you’re a student who’s been accepted to one or more of these storied institutions (mazel tov)—or a proud parent or grandparent of such a student (mazel tov)—it might be time for you to reach out to the dean of students of said school and politely inquire into what the hell is going on and what the administration plans on doing about it.

For most colleges, the deadline for accepted students to commit to attend is May 1. As a result, this is one of the few times in the admissions cycle that students and their families have a measure of leverage. If, for example, students admitted to both the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (which pratfalled its way to an F) and Duke (which scored an impressive B), decided to move en masse to Durham and become Blue Devils, then UNC administrator—and the boards that oversee them—would be stocking up on antacids and headache powder. As they should.

If you’re a donor to a school that received a dunce cap from the ADL, you have several choices. The easier one would be reducing or stopping your gift in protest. A more challenging, but perhaps more satisfying, option would be trying to fix the campus from within, by joining one of the boards mentioned above. Or do both. However you decide, know that your voice matters. So use it.

More than a century ago, Justice Louis D. Brandeis (the namesake of one of the two high-scoring campuses) famously wrote that sunlight was the best disinfectant. That principle still holds true; Americans, as a nation, will cut out the rot of antisemitism when it is properly illuminated. This recently was demonstrated by the congressional grilling of several university presidents regarding antisemitism on campus and, shortly after, the ignominious dismissal of two of them.

With its report, ADL has focused spotlights all over the country. What happens next largely is up to us.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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