1929 - 1946

Wheaton Limits Number of Jewish Students Enrolled

Though the College had long tracked the religious affiliation of applicants in some form or another, it did not become a deciding factor in admissions until the mid-1920s. In a 1926 letter to President Park, Edith White, Director of Admission, fretted over whether photographs would be an effective means of weeding out students “of Hebraic blood.” In the 1930s, White would later debate whether Jewish students from the Midwest should receive designated scholarships over Christian students.

With the stated rationale that too many Jewish students on campus would turn away Christian families, Wheaton began implementing limitations on the number of Jewish students to be admitted to the College during a period roughly corresponding to the Great Depression years from 1929 to 1946. Under ten percent of new students in each freshman class were to be of Jewish ancestry.

Beginning in the 1929-30 academic year, the College began tabulating the portion of the student body that was of Jewish descent (6% that year). The admission of fifteen Jewish students in 1932 sounded the alarm, as it raised the percentage to 7.5 percent, and Edith White felt compelled to write to President Park, “I am sorry we had to relax a bit this year. I should like to see the figures kept down to 6%.”

Evidently these measures were successful, as the following year, Park reported to Dean Carpenter, “Several of those belonging to a race unmentionable to Hitler have dropped out, so that we should be below our quota in that respect this year.”

In a 1936 report on the work of the Office of Admission, Barbara Ziegler, Secretary to the Board of Admission, wrote that increasing numbers of Jewish students on campus had “called forth considerable comment particularly from the alumnae” and recommended that only “twelve new Hebrews be admitted although there were sixty on the roll, and one of the largest classes in the history of the college was graduating.” 

The quota extended to faculty as well. In 1939, President Park dissuaded Hedda Korsch from offering a temporary refugee scholar status to a Jewish colleague, a psychologist named Professor Weigand, who was applying to a post at Wheaton. The memo sent to Korsch explained that there were already two Jewish faculty members, which Park thought “is about all that a college of our size should have.” Korsch had, herself, been a refugee. A prominent Communist, she and her husband were ousted from their jobs in Germany in 1933 following Hitler’s rise to power.

The policy was eventually discontinued in the 1940s. The last mention of Jewish candidates as a distinct category in Admissions briefings was in 1943, but Jewish candidates for admission were listed as “other” until 1946.