Bursar Liggett to Treasurer Plimpton, June 1906

[Barnard College Bursar N. W. Liggett to Barnard Treasurer,
on excess of Hebrew students at Barnard in 1906, Transcribed by RAMc ]

Barnard College
Office of the Bursar
Barnard College


June 20, 1906,

My dear Mr. Plimpton,

If you were not gifted with an optimistic temperament, and capable of taking a large and comprehensive view of a question I would think it unwise to send you the enclosed list [“Candidates Entering in 1906”] , and call attention to some facts concerning them.

Personally I am discouraged. Considerably discouraged. During the summer I want you to look carefully over the names and addresses of the enclosed candidates. You will observe, I think, that we are drawing a very large percentage of Hebrews, and others of foreign extraction; that our students are coming from neighborhoods unknown to most residenters. This contingent might not be open to criticism if we had plenty of the children of well-to-do New York families also, for the affiliation would do much to neutralize race limitations.

Only thirteen private schools in New York, Brooklyn, and Staten Island (the city proper) send us pupils. Of these thirteen private schools, five send us only Hebrew students. Of 62 taking preliminary examinations twenty-nine are Hebrews; of 102 taking complete examinations 40 are Hebrews. It seems to me that this condition cannot be longer ignored. We are certainly losing ground. Many reasons contribute to this, but some of them we must recognize. We are not able to do any successful missionary work in the schools, for things have reached the pass where this sort of zeal but brings us more and more Hebrews, and all history proves that any cause which attracts the support of large numbers of Hebrews is a losing cause in the end. This question seems especially vital to me now, on account of us running a dormitory in the near future. This is our only opportunity of winning a different constituency. I do not think we should do anything drastic, but I do believe the trustees should consider this whole question, and formulate some policy in regard to us. A dormitory, which will receive any number of Hebrews from all parts of the country as resident students, will do us incalculable harm. Already Hebrews are coming to us from other parts of the country. They are not from good jewish families. I happen to know that “the word has been passed” that Barnard treats the Jews well, and that no discrimination is made here regarding them, except in the nature of fraternities. I was asked to urge our rich Hebrew girls to get some of their friends to give us a dormitory, and it was in the course of this conversation that the above observation concerning our attitude to the jews was made to me. I could not affirm that the gift of a dormitory building from a Hebrew would be the most embarrassing gift that could come to us.

Every year we are drawing less and less from the private school element, and from the well-to-do classes. Much of the material we graduate we cannot place advantageously, where we can ever expect any return, for while their minds are trained, the social limitation and environment is such that only the public school is available, and we already have too much of this sort of material coming to us.

Won’t you think carefully over this matter? I feel sure that some attitude in regard to this question must be assumed before our dormitory starts.

Very truly yours,

  1. W. Liggett

[RMc — Attached to letter was list of 102 “Candidates Entering in 1906,” by street address and high school, with 39 checked as likely Hebrews.]