A Call for Harvard to Reckon with Its Anti-Semitic History

This former president of Harvard University, A. Lawrence Lowell, was a notorious anti-Semite. He also happened to be a racist and a homophobe. Yet Harvard — to this day — whitewashes his legacy.

A. Lawrence Lowell is a name that has popped up from time to time on the pages of our college admissions blog. For those unfamiliar with A. Lawrence Lowell, he was the president of Harvard University from 1909-1933. He also happened to be a notorious anti-Semite who used quotas to limit the number of Jewish students admitted to the elite university. Yet if you read A. Lawrence Lowell’s bio on Harvard’s website, there is no mention of his well documented anti-Semitism (nor of his notorious racism and homophobia either). Rather, Harvard writes of his presidency, “His inaugural address made clear his desire to restore the ‘collegiate way of living’ that had inspired Harvard’s founding. His correctives shape undergraduate life to this day.” And, in fact, the man is even praised in his bio for refusing to fire a psychology professor for speaking highly of his native Germany during World War I — a sign of the academic freedom enjoyed under Lowell’s stewardship of the university. Really, Harvard? Talk about whitewashing your own history.

Harvard Praises Its Former Anti-Semitic Leader

As Mitchell Bard writes for The Forward, a wonderful Jewish newspaper our great-grandfather, Max, bought every day for 5 cents (he was given 25 cents a day by our great-grandmother Etel — the rest was to be used for transportation and lunch), “Lowell’s tenure at Harvard, which lasted from 1909-1933, is infamous for Lowell’s institutionalization of racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. It was Lowell who created the Jewish quota at Harvard, capping the number of Jewish students to a maximum of 15% to the student body. He also excluded African American students from living in Harvard Yard, and led a purge of gay students. There has been some recognition of Lowell’s crimes. In 2019, Harvard’s faculty deans decided to remove the portrait of Lowell and his wife from the dining hall in Lowell House…And yet, the removal of that one painting has hardly erased Lowell’s tenure. Another portrait of Lowell hangs in University Hall. And what is more disturbing than portraits or a building with Lowell’s name on it is the university’s whitewashing of Lowell’s problematic legacy.”

Harvard Board of Overseers Must Take Action Now

Ivy Coach hereby issues a call for: (1) the renaming of Lowell House; (2) the removal of any paintings featuring A. Lawrence Lowell on Harvard’s campus; and (3) an immediate and consequential change to the biography of this notorious anti-Semite featured on Harvard’s website. To the Harvard Board of Overseers, history is written — and shaped — by human beings. You are writing and shaping Harvard’s history by excluding A. Lawrence Lowell’s anti-Semitic policies from his biography while you laud him in this same biography for all sorts of things like defending academic freedoms for refusing to fire a man who spoke highly of Germany during World War I. The bio reads like it’s written by a Hollywood publicist, but his bio should not read like a press release. Rather, his bio should be his — and Harvard’s — true, absolutely imperfect story. This whitewashing of history is shameful and we call on the Harvard Board of Overseers to address these grievances at once.

 
 

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5 Comments

  • SD says:

    Antisemitism or Jewish privilege? For example, Jews are 2% of the US population, but 25% of Harvard’s enrollment. Compare that to non-Jewish whites at Harvard:They comprise 61% of US population, but only 12% of Harvard’s enrollment. Is Harvard anti-Christian. Seems so! Hispanics and Blacks are also underreprsented. Asians are nowhere near the overrepresentation Jews benefit from. So, knowing that Harvard is giving 10 times as many slots to Jewish people than their numbers of the population (and no other group is even cloee to that) seems Harvard has overcompensated for its early shortfall. Not to mention the number of times Harvard has elected a Jewish president to lead the school. Sounds like your story is lacking in both modern day evidence and truthfulness.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      How does any of this relate to renaming a building honoring a notorious anti-Semite? How does any of this relate to Harvard whitewashing their former president’s biography?

  • Priya Amin says:

    Maybe the poster has a point Ivy Coach. You seem to be picking and choosing your targets. If you look into anyones past, you can find scandal, peccadillos, etc. By renaming buildings, tearing down statues, etc. you go down a very precarious path. Then you have to investigate everyone’s past: MLK, FDR, etc. It begins a tit for tat battle. The point of the poster is that Harvard is really now a pro-Jewish school to the exclusion of others. And how many Jewish presidents has Harvard had? Have they done anything wrong? Can we ban their names from history? Many many people think FDR was pariah, but I don’t see his name being sullied, but George Washington’s is! This history revision is getting silly and dangerous and only a matter of time before there is major retaliation against a very one-sided assault on history. Let’s cool it, Ivy Coach!

    • Ivy Coach says:

      You described taking down statues and renaming buildings as “a very one-sided assault on history.” We strongly disagree. Harvard’s inclusion on its website of a biography of one of its former presidents that lauds his achievements but fails to mention, as but one example, his establishment of Jewish quotas in admissions is — we would argue — “a very one-sided assault on history.” This is particularly the case when the school, in that same biography, is lauding the former president’s support of a then-professor who drew criticism for his public affection for Germany during World War I.

  • Priya Amin says:

    Nobody has ever heard of this man Lowell except some people at Harvard- and you. Nobody cares about him – including me. I just do not like this revision of history anywhere at any time. Furthermore, this man was president 100 years ago! Get over it! The assault on US Culture and history is going on now, today, and it is very real and it is everywhere. It affects me and you and the entire population of the USA- not just a few people’s feelings- and in turn is affects the world. This is like complaining about an insult when a murder is taking place. Just ridiculous! And if you want to be ABSOLUTELY fair, why not tell your readers about the incredible PRIVILEGE Jews are and have been receiving in admissions to Harvard today and rest of the Ivies and for the last half century? SOMEBODY at Harvard is using Jewish quotas in REVERSE- by giving them FAR more slots than they deserve. And they are not graduating with high honors commensurate with their percentages of the overall student population either. That shows an incredible bias FOR the Jews. Whatever discrimination Jews were victims of eons ago, they certainly have reversed the roles now! I have seen articles on this site complaining that there is a slight dip in Jewish enrollment at some Ivy school and you were upset about it. Are you kidding me? Jews are still being admitted at 10 times their percentage of the populace. I wish you were as strong a proponent of the non-Jewish whites, but you won’t be. You know which group is the most underrepresented in college admissions: Non-Jewish whites.

    Here are the TRUE Numbers for Elite Schools :

    Non-Jewish Whites: 18% representation.
    Hispanics: 48% representation
    Blacks: 72% representation
    Asians: 358% representation
    Jewish Whites: 1,200% representation

    This is so contrary to the nonsense of ‘privilege’ among all whites. Blacks have more privilege in every field of life. If blacks stopped committing terrible crimes and COOPERATED when arrested, George Floyd would be alive. No excuse for this rotten cop, but Floyd was instructed to get in police car but refused. He said he was claustrophobic. He also had bern in jail for armed robber previously. Not a saint.

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