Dear members of our Stanford community,

I am writing to you today on an important matter – a matter that concerns Stanford University’s history, and one that we must face up to today.

Earlier this year, we created a task force to research allegations that in the 1950s Stanford limited the admission of Jewish students to the university. We also asked the task force to make recommendations on enhancing Jewish life on campus today.

The task force conducted an archivally based historical investigation and has completed its report, which I encourage you to read here. The report finds that actions to suppress the admission of Jewish students to Stanford did, in fact, occur in the 1950s, and that the university for years afterward denied that this occurred.

The report discusses a 1953 university memo, the existence of which was reported in a blog last year, that expressed concern by university administrators about the number of Jewish students being admitted to Stanford. The report then documents a sharp drop in enrollments of students from two Southern California high schools known to have substantial populations of Jewish students – evidence that the university took action to suppress admission of Jewish students.

It is unclear how long this appalling antisemitic activity lasted or whether it extended to other schools or students. However, the report articulates how this effort to suppress Jewish enrollments had long-lasting effects and dissuaded some Jewish students from applying to Stanford in later years. And, the report shows that when questioned about its practices in later years, the university denied any anti-Jewish bias in admissions.

This ugly component of Stanford’s history, confirmed by this new report, is saddening and deeply troubling. As a university, we must acknowledge it and confront it as a part of our history, as repellent as it is, and seek to do better.

On behalf of Stanford University I wish to apologize to the Jewish community, and to our entire university community, both for the actions documented in this report to suppress the admission of Jewish students in the 1950s and for the university’s denials of those actions in the period that followed. 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.

The details of the task force’s findings are summarized in this Stanford Report story and can be read in full in the task force report itself.

Many of you in our campus community and in our alumni community will be interested in learning more about the findings of the task force. To that end, we have organized a webinar that will be held tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 13, at 12 noon Pacific time. Professor Ari Y. Kelman, the chair of the task force, will share the findings and answer your questions. Details are on this web page. I encourage you to participate.

In addition to its substantial archival investigation, the task force made a number of recommendations for enhancing Jewish life on campus today. We embrace these recommendations and welcome the task force’s thoughtful guidance on them.

The university is accepting the recommendations of the task force, with one modification described below, and implementation work will now begin. In addition to the institutional apology contained in this letter, our implementation plans include:

  • Ongoing advisory committee: The task force recommended an additional study of contemporary Jewish life at Stanford. We embrace the need for ongoing engagement with the Jewish community at Stanford to understand the needs of the community and to translate those needs into action in thoughtful and coordinated ways. Rather than just a study, however, we will commission a standing Jewish advisory committee comprised of students, staff, faculty, and alumni that will work with the Office of the Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access, and Community and the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life to address the needs of the Jewish community and partner with relevant campus offices on action steps. We believe this approach will provide a more dynamic, action-oriented, and sustainable means of addressing these needs than would be provided by a single study.
  • Education and training: We recognize the importance of addressing issues of potential bias against members of the Jewish community. A variety of anti-bias and related trainings are offered at Stanford and, as recommended, we will include antisemitism as one of the areas in which anti-bias education is provided.
  • ASSU resolution: The task force recommended that the Associated Students of Stanford University enforce a 2019 resolution adopted by the Undergraduate Senate to combat antisemitism on campus. We understand that the ASSU has expressed its intent to do so and has been in contact with the task force regarding implementation.
  • Jewish High Holidays: It is deeply regrettable that the beginning of our fall quarter coincided with Rosh Hashanah this year. As Provost Drell has said, we are working now with the appropriate Academic Council committees to address this issue for future academic calendars, which will require the approval of the Faculty Senate.
  • Housing and dining: The university, through its Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and Residential Education units, has worked with Hillel, the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life, and students to seek to accommodate the religious and cultural needs of Jewish students, including creating resources such as the Glatt Kosher Dining Program. However, we know more can be done to improve the resources we provide and the manner in which we make students aware of those resources. R&DE and ResEd will work with a cross-functional group of stakeholders to explore other resources that may be provided to support Jewish students.
  • University relationship with Hillel: As recommended, we will work to clarify the ongoing and important relationship of the university with Hillel, which is not an official Stanford entity but provides valuable support and services to members of the Stanford community.

Three final points: First, it would be natural to ask whether any of the historical anti-Jewish bias documented by the task force exists in our admission process today. We are confident it does not. We welcome, and we seek to support, a thriving Jewish community at Stanford as part of our diverse community of students and scholars from all backgrounds.

Second, this report is one part of our work to confront our institutional history. The renamings of some campus buildings and streets in recent years have been a part of this work. And, our initiatives under IDEAL addressing the needs and concerns of many other campus constituencies also have been a part of this work. This is a multi-faceted and ongoing effort.

Finally, I extend my great appreciation for the work of the task force that produced this report, as well as the university archivists who provided critical support for it. We asked the members of the task force to investigate this serious and sensitive matter through scholarly inquiry, with an unflinching commitment to examining the historical record as they found it. They have done so, and they have provided essential guidance for the university’s ongoing and necessary efforts to support the members of our Jewish community.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne