Karabel’s strenuously detailed, sometimes repetitive examination of admissions policies at Ivy League schools shows that the history of America’s top universities is steeped in systematic discrimination against Jews and minorities.
Graduates of the top three schools run the country, and therefore the world; Karabel (Sociology/Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) notes that, by 2008, when George W. Bush is set to complete his second term, graduates of the big three will have occupied the White House for 47 of the 104 years he covers here. The author sees admissions policies at America’s top schools as “exceedingly strange” compared to the rest of the world. How did the schools arrive at a highly subjective process that weighs academics, athleticism, lineage, class and character? Well, it wasn’t always so. Until the 1920s, most major universities based admissions solely on academic distinction. Then, amid a national wave of immigration reform, the upper-crust schools overhauled their policies to have a more well-rounded student body, by which they meant one including not too many Jews. While the fight over admissions occasionally boiled over in public, Karabel makes his case most persuasively—and exhaustively—through internal reports and correspondence. Though it can hardly be overstated, the institutional anti-Semitism is a note Karabel plinks past the point of exhaustion. At least as interesting is his look at the rise of meritocracy, gender equality and the push by the schools’ faculties for more of a voice in the process during the Cold War race for technological dominance.
Newsworthy, but too dense for the general reader.