, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 160-169
Date: 03 Oct 2007

Jerome Karabel, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale and Princeton

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The modern university got its start on 2 September 1945 on the decks of the U.S.S. Missouri, when representatives of Emperor Hirohito and the Imperial Japanese Army unconditionally surrendered to the Allied Forces. The end of the war meant that millions of American men and women would be coming home to resume lives that had been interrupted by war. Many hoped to enter college. As a result of the G.I. Bill, signed into law a year earlier by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, their hopes were within reach.

Some observers worried that America’s colleges and universities would be overcrowded. These worries were, of course, borne out. Desks and chairs were in short supply; classes in Quonset huts were common. But everyone understood this problem to be temporary. New lecture halls would be built, furniture moved in, and bookshelves stocked. It was just a matter of time.

Others worried that academic standards at the prestigious schools would deteriorate. This concern proved unfounded and in r ...