By Ron Elve
“NYU Jew” and “Catholic U”—these were some of the names that NYU was called based on its long-standing tradition of an inclusive admissions process. Other schools, including the Ivy League and religious institutions, imposed admissions quotas which led to Irish Catholics and Jews being excluded. NYU’s mission was explicitly not to discriminate based on national origin, religious beliefs, or social background. Albert Gallatin, Treasury Secretary under Thomas Jefferson was a major NYU founder and champion of this open policy. At that time all were considered for admissions, although only the wealthy could afford to attend.
In the 1920s most NYU students were Jewish. Post WWII, NYU welcomed the largest contingent of returning veterans in the country. Many immigrants, including Catholics (who were subject to quotas elsewhere) were admitted. By the 1970s, when this writer was on the faculty, total NYU enrollment was a mind-boggling 40,000 students—for comparison, enrollment in Fall 2014 was 58,547.
So, in spite of the quotas, upwardly mobile NYU Jews, Catholic (Irish and otherwise) U’ers and many other groups went on to do quite well for themselves and the Nation. Bless Gallatin and this country!