Emory apologizes for dental school discrimination

by: Diana Davis Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Emory University apologized on Wednesday for decades of anti-Semitism at its now defunct dental school.

Jewish students who attended the dental school in the 1940s and 1950s were flunked or forced to repeat classes. Their stories were told in a documentary commissioned by Emory.

The documentary premiered Wednesday night to a crowd of hundreds.

One of the former students who helped make the film sat down with Channel 2’s Diana Davis. Now nearly now nearly 80 years old, Dr. Perry Brickman said he had always been a good student.

Brickman had a “B-plus” average as an Emory undergraduate and was accepted early to Emory’s dental school.

In 1952, after his first year at the Emory dental school, Brickman got a letter saying he'd flunked out. He told Davis he was shocked and shamed.

“You don’t have time to think. You're thinking, ‘What am I going to say to my parents?’” he said.

He quickly learned three of his classmates, all Jewish, had also failed. 

“It’s a lot like rape, because nobody believes you or if they believe you, it’s not one hundred percent,” he said.
          
Brickman and the other students kept silent.

“In those times, you didn’t challenge anybody. You didn’t have a chance,” he said.

He added the few students who spoke out got nowhere.

“They were treated terribly by the president of the school, not just by the dean of the dental school and by the vice president for health affairs of Emory.”

Brickman transferred to the University of Tennessee dental school, graduating fourth in his class.

John Buhler, the Emory dental school dean from 1948 to 1961, resigned after the Anti-Defamation League challenged the dental school's anti-Semitic practices under his leadership. Brickman told Davis he felt vindicated.

He became an oral surgeon, with a successful Atlanta practice for 43 years.
          
During the years of the scandal, 65 percent of Emory’s Jewish dental students were either flunked or forced to repeat another year.  On Wednesday night, Emory will apologize to Brickman and all the other Jewish dental students from that era.

Emory’s vice president and historian, Gary Hauk, told Davis it’s an important moment, not just for the students who were wronged but for the university.

“It’s important to do because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the morally appropriate thing to do,” said Hauk.