Emory University is finally acknowledging appalling discrimination against Jewish students who attended its dental school between 1948 to 1961.
The Jewish students were ordered to leave the school by the dean, who maintained that they had failed the classes. Soon, hardly any Jewish students attended the dental school, which had an application that required applicants to check off “Caucasian, Jew or Other.”
The saga of bias at the Emory dental school is now a documentary “From Silence to Recognition.” Emory will premiere the film tomorrow evening.
Earlier in the day, the university will do something long overdue: President James Wagner will apologize to former students at the dental school.
In an interview with The New York Times this week, one of those students, Perry Brickman, described the shame and anger that he and others felt:
Mr. Brickman was mystified. He had been a B-plus student in biology as an Emory undergraduate and had earned early admission to dental school. He had never failed a course in his life.
Over the next few weeks of that summer, Mr. Brickman found out that three of his classmates had also been failed. All of them happened to be Jewish. Yet instead of fighting back, Mr. Brickman and his friends searched for other dental schools and swallowed a shame that lasted decades.
“Your parents said, ‘Why didn’t you work harder?’ ” Mr. Brickman, 80, recalled recently. “My mother said, ‘What have you done to me?’ It was almost like being a rape victim. No one believed us. It couldn’t be this one-sided story. Emory was a great university, right? So we went off with the tail between our legs.”
Here is a release today from the Anti-Defamation League about the Wednesday events:
The Anti-Defamation League today commended Emory University and President James Wagner for acknowledging for the first time that Emory’s now defunct dental school discriminated against Jewish students for more than 13 years, from 1948 to 1961.
President Wagner will apologize for the practice in a private meeting this week with many of the former students who were told they had flunked out of the school despite grades that qualified them to continue their studies.
In 1961, when Atlanta ADL staff member Art Levin presented to University officials information that confirmed the anti-Semitic policy, the Dental School dean resigned his post. But the university denied there was a connection between the two events, and subsequently has refused to acknowledge the anti-Semitic practice.
“We are grateful to President Wagner for his willingness to acknowledge and apologize for a policy that has haunted many of the Jewish students for decades. In many cases, they came to doubt their own abilities, were viewed as failures by parents and friends, and had to rethink careers, all because the dental school dean at the time did not want Jews studying in his school,” said Bill Nigut, Southeast Regional Director of ADL.
ADL praised Atlanta dentist Dr. Perry Brickman, a victim of the discriminatory policy, whose continuing research into the policy sparked the apology that will be issued on Wednesday evening. Brickman tracked down and interviewed many former students who’d been victims of the policy, and produced a documentary which will be shown in a public gathering at Emory Wednesday evening.
“Perry Brickman’s passionate pursuit of justice for all the students who faced this disgraceful and damaging anti-Semitic policy was a powerful catalyst in the University’s decision to at last confront this disgraceful episode from the past,” Nigut said. “We are so happy for Perry that his years of effort have been rewarded.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog