New book shows how elite colleges eschewed standards to keep out Jews and others

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In his informative but often vexing new book, Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, looks at the admissions process at the so-called Big Three and how the criteria governing that process have changed over the last century in response to changes in society at large.

Mr. Karabel writes that until the 1920's, Harvard, Yale and Princeton, "like the most prestigious universities of other nations," admitted students "almost entirely on the basis of academic criteria." Applicants "were required to take an examination, and those who passed were admitted." Though the exams exhibited a distinct class bias (Latin and Greek, after all, were not taught at most public schools), he says that "the system was meritocratic in an elemental way: if you met the academic requirements, you were admitted, regardless of social background."

This all changed after World War I, he argues, as it became "clear that a system of selection focused solely on scholastic performance would lead to the admission of increasing numbers of Jewish students, most of them of eastern European background."

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