Philadelphia (Jul. 1)
The University of Pennsylvania will admit only 2,070 students out of more than 11,300 applicants to its freshman class next fall and one of them will be an aspiring young mathematician whose chances of reaching the campus are considered very slim.
He is Leonid Brailovsky, the 20 year-old son of Moscow Jewish activist Viktor Brailovsky who was recently sentenced to three years and three months exile in Siberia for alleged defamation of the Soviet State. The elder Brailovsky’s only apparent crime was to apply for permission to emigrate for himself, his son and his wife, Irina–consistently refused by the Soviet authorities since 1972.
Marc Sugarman, a staff writer for the Jewish Exponent here, reported that Penn waived its strict admission requirements in young Brailovsky’s case because of the unusual circumstances and because they are convinced that he is capable of meeting the academic standards.
Dr. Gerold Porter, a mathematics professor at the University, told Sugarman, “I’ve been in contact with Leonid since 1975” when he visited the USSR as part of a study group. “He was unable to go to Moscow University because of his parents’ visa refusal. Since then I have been receiving letters requesting me to send him math books.”
MAY BE DRAFTED
Porter added, according to Sugarman, “He was forced to enroll in a technical institute which makes his situation even more critical. Institute attendance requires him to join the army in a couple of months. Once in the army, he will learn ‘national secrets’ and may never be let out of the country.”
Lee Stetson, director of admissions at Penn, told Sugarman: “When it all began, all I had was a half-filled application. Due to our inability to obtain transcripts (of his previous education) we used personal endorsements from individuals who know Leonid as a person and a student. The support he got was very positive. He has attended technical school for two years and has been studying mathematics. He has a respectable command of English and there is every indication that he could compete academically here. He deserves the opportunity.”
But Leonid’s greatest challenge is getting out of the Soviet Union, the Exponent writer reported. “The State Department and the White House have been alerted and are reportedly working through diplomatic channels to help him. He must now initiate action of applying for a temporary visa.” Stetson said “he can use Penn’s letter of acceptance as a reason for a temporary visa.”
The University has waived Brailovsky’s application fee but if he does enroll, he must pay his tuition in full, Stetson said. “We are hopeful that private sources will help him make the payments.”
The Brailovsky family has been “adopted” by Knesseth Israel, a Reform congregation here, the Exponent reported. It quoted Rabbi Simeon Maslin of Knesset Israel as saying, “We would be delighted to do anything we could to help him …It should only happen.”