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ADL Slams College Questionnaire

December 24, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith “strenuously objected” today to ethnic and religious questions contained in an eight-page data-gathering form distributed by Brooklyn College to its students. The ADL declared that for a public institution to request such information “raises serious Constitutional questions.” The questionnaire is being used by the institution to computerize its record-keeping department.

In a letter to John W. Kneller, president of the college, Milton A. Seymour, chairman of the ADL’s New York Board, said that the ethnic and religious inquiries in the questionnaire “might well be regarded as public intrusion in an area reserved as completely private by the First Amendment.” The questionnaire asks the student to identify his ethnic origin, religious preference, and his parents’ religious preferences.

The questions are marked “optional” and a covering letter from Kneller says that the college is requesting information considered “essential and relevant to the business of the college and your education.” He added that all replies will be held in confidence. Seymour stated that even though the questions are optional “many students will be intimidated into answering them by the official nature of the enterprise.”

Noting recent criticism of computerized data banks and the dangers of improper dissemination of information so acquired, Seymour said that “added to those dangers is the completely gratuitous nature of the questions involved.” He asserted that without “clear and convincing proof” that the ethnic and religious information is necessary, “we must oppose the inclusion of such questions.”

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