The Atlanta school invited many of those former students to meet with president James Wagner on Wednesday and then attend a screening of a documentary about the discrimination, which heavily relies on video interviews collected by one of those students, Dr. Perry Brickman.
“We knew individually and collectively what the truth was,” Brickman said. “But the truth in a situation like this is never really validated until the perpetrator says sorry.”
In one interview, former student Ronald Goldstein recalls the dean asking him, “Why do you Jews want to go into dentistry? You don’t have it in the hands.” Another, George Marholin, recalls a professor coming into a room cursing at him and calling him a “damn Jew.”
“I’m sorry. We are sorry,” Wagner said before a ballroom packed with several hundred people.
Under dental school dean John Buhler from 1948 to 1961, about 65 percent of Jewish students were flunked out or forced to repeat courses, while the rate of failure or repeats was dramatically lower before that period, according to statistics compiled by then-director of the Anti-Defamation League, Art Levin. Anti-Semitism at the dental school spread beyond Buhler to other members of the faculty as well, said university vice president Gary Hauk.
An admissions quota at the time allowed about four Jewish students a year, so there were likely about 48 Jewish students admitted during Buhler’s tenure, Hauk said. At a private meeting with Wagner on Wednesday, 31 former students or their families were present.