John H. Bunzel

Senior Research Fellow
Biography: 

John H. Bunzel passed away on July 19, 2018.

Bunzel, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, specialized in current political and educational problems and frequently wrote and lectured on issues of public policy. He was a former commissioner of the US Civil Rights Commission.

He was an expert in the field of civil rights, race relations, higher education, US politics, and elections. His most recent research centered on race and race relations in US society, with a focus on affirmative action, multiculturalism, and diversity in higher education, as well as US politics and elections.

From 1970 to 1978, when he joined the Hoover Institution, he was president of San Jose State University.

Bunzel's most recent book was Race Relations on Campus: Stanford Students Speak (1992). He also published Anti-Politics in America (1968); Political Passages: Journeys of Change through Two Decades, 1968–1988; and The American Small Businessman (1962).

In 1990, he received the eighth annual Hubert Humphrey Award from the American Political Science Association for his years of service as "an outstanding public policy practitioner." He holds an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Santa Clara; in 1968 he was a California delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In 1974 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors awarded him its Certificate of Honor for "unswerving devotion to the highest ideals of brotherhood and service to mankind and dedicated efforts looking to the elimination of racial and religious bigotry and discrimination."

He also wrote numerous articles on trade unions, discrimination and affirmative action, and the relationship between quality and equality in education. He has taught at San Francisco State College (1953–56, 1965–70), Michigan State University (1956–57), and Stanford University (1956–63). The American Voter, his 1964 weekly television program on KPIX (CBS affiliate) in San Francisco, won a national award.

He received an AB in political science from Princeton University, an MA in sociology from Columbia University, and a PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley. From 1943 to 1946, he served in the US Army.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

To read the family-written obituary that was published in local newspapers, click here.

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Recent Commentary

Affirmative Action in Higher Education: A Dilemma of Conflicting Principles

by John H. Bunzelvia Analysis
Wednesday, July 1, 1998

As a university president in the 1970s (San Jose State) and then as a researcher and writer, Bunzel's long involvement with affirmative action in higher education has led him to conclude that the troubling issues of race and equality cannot be reduced to the easy categories of "right" versus "wrong." He objects to such moral absolutism (also reflected in California's Proposition 209) because it denies legitimacy to the inevitable complexities and nuances inherent in what he regards as a many-sided problem. Affirmative action in college admissions, he argues, must ultimately be viewed in relation to other competing principles and in light of many practical problems.

In trying to balance different claims and interests within a "theory of limits," Bunzel believes a more useful way to think about affirmative action is in terms of a "social contribution theory of universities." Thus he asks (among other questions), "Is some degree of race consciousness never defensible?" He does not think there is only one morally correct answer. Acknowledging that race has too often been considered excessively and sub rosa, he rejects both of the ideologically pure extremes--namely, that anything that overcomes the disadvantages of race is acceptable and that taking race into account is never appropriate under any circumstances.

Black Studies Revisited

by John H. Bunzel, Anita Susan Grossmanvia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, July 30, 1997

Some goings-on perhaps best described asodd have been discovered by outside observers in some black studies courses at San Francisco State University. A report on the classroom by Hoover fellow John H. Bunzel and his coauthor Anita Susan Grossman.

The Intellect as a Weapon For Freedom

by John H. Bunzelvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 30, 1997

The philosopher and Hoover fellow Sidney Hook (1902-1989) fought a tenacious battle against the politicization of the university. An appreciation by Hoover fellow John H. Bunzel.

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