John Leo on recruiting Jews

John Leo discusses Vanderbilt’s decision to boost their academic standing by recruiting Jews: A big mess on campus.

The mess he’s talking about is worse than he is aware. He starts off complaining how offensive it is to say Jews are “lively, interesting, and hardworking,” because it’s “close to conventional stereotypes”—not to mention “the problem of leaving the word Jewish hovering in the air within 10 paces of the word elite.”

A few paragraphs later, in the course of arguing that it’s a “grave charge” against affirmative action that it keeps out Jews, he points out that “Jews are only 2 percent of the population, but at Ivy League schools, they account for 23 percent of students. In diversity-speak, a language with no word for merit, this means that Jews are ‘overrepresented.'” So it’s OK to say Jews have 11.5 times as much merit as other people, and that there are lots and lots of them at the top of academia, but not that they are hardworking or appear within 10 paces of an elite.

It’s hard for some of us to keep up with all this. Why blame the president of Vanderbilt?

1 thought on “John Leo on recruiting Jews”

  1. I think John Leo misses the
    I think John Leo misses the fundamental difference between the way Jewish recruitment at Vanderbilt is being promoted and the way diversity admissions in general are promoted. In other diversity admissions, the favored group is simply being admitted because it is “diverse,” i.e., not like us, and because the school wants to have some kind of mathematical proportionality of different groups. In such diversity schemes, as well as in liberal non-discrimination laws (the 1965 Immigration Act being the classic example), there is no SUBSTANTIVE reason offered for letting in members of this or that group. They are only being admitted in order to demonstrate that the host institution does not discriminate. But in the present case, Vanderbilt wants more Jews in order to acquire Jews’ specific, concrete virtues. This is neither multiculturalism nor non-discriminatory liberalism, but I don’t think Leo gets that. Rather, it is a kind of culture-free meritocratic system, which presents its own distinct set of advantages and problems.

    And this is where Leo does perhaps have a point, when he says that this policy could be seen as offensive because “Christian students will now understand that their university views them as unimpressive bumpkins in need of non-Christian help.”


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