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Columbia for Jews? The Untold Story of Seth Low Junior College

Leeza Hirt

Columbia Current

Thu Sep 01 2016

On April 10th, 1935, fifteen-year-old Isaac Asimov ventured into Manhattan on his own for the very first time. He crossed the Brooklyn Bridge that day for an occasion so significant that he would remember that date for the rest of his life: his interview at Columbia College.

Unfortunately for Asimov, the interview did not go as well as he had hoped; he was rejected from Columbia College on the spot. The interviewer told him that Columbia College had a strictly enforced minimum age of entry at sixteen, and that he should instead apply to Seth Low Junior College, the short-lived extension of Columbia University in Brooklyn.

Asimov had never heard of this school before, and for the rest of his life had “never heard of anyone who has ever heard of it—unless he, too, had been a student there.”

At first, he was satisfied with the interviewer’s excuse, as it was consistent with the information he read in the Columbia College pamphlet. Asimov later came to the conclusion that he was relegated to Seth Low Junior College for one main reason: he was Jewish.

Asimov wrote on his experience: “Afterward, I checked the requirements for Seth Low Junior College and it set sixteen as an entrance requirement there as well, so I saw the excuse for what it was—a well-meant lie.”...

Columbia for Jews? The Untold Story of Seth Low Junior College