By: Commentator Staff  | 

News Briefs - April 2015

Sarachek Tournament Draws Over A Thousand Fans

This year’s Sarachek tournament once again proved that the Yeshiva League basketball establishment is a force to be reckoned with in the world of Jewish sports. For the players and their fans, the YU-run and internationally broadcasted event is no game – many consider the ‘tourney’ to be the annual pinnacle of Yeshiva League hoops. So while most pairs of undergraduate eyes were glued to ESPN’s coverage of the second and third rounds of March Madness, Yeshiva League fans worldwide tuned in to MacsLive to follow the festivities in the Max Stern Athletic Center. This year’s tournament provided non-stop entertainment, with twenty teams playing a total of thirty-six games over a span of five days.

Yeshiva University’s own high school MTA disappointed the local crowd, finishing third to last in the tournament. However, other New York area teams demonstrated the dominance of the metropolitan area; three out of the four tier-one-semifinals teams hailed from within twenty miles of the Big Apple. The first semifinal game was a nail-biter, as Frisch edged out DRS 34–32, while the second was a blowout, with Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR) overwhelming YULA 51–37. The final match between the number-one-seeded HAFTR and the number-three-seeded Frisch proved to be a classic contest; in one of the highest scoring games of the tournament, Frisch emerged victorious after a triple-overtime nail biter. Point guard Tyler Hod, who recorded eighteen points and six assists in the championship game and designed the play that led to the winning basket, was named tournament MVP. A MacsLive season record 1,350 people followed the live video broadcast of the championship game, capping off a successful weekend for “the country’s most prestigious tournament for Jewish high school basketball.”


Orthodox Forum on Hasidut at Yeshiva University

The Orthodox Forum took place at Yeshiva University on March 15th and March 16th. This annual two-day conference, sponsored by the Joseph J. and Bertha K. Green Memorial Fund at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, brings scholars from around the world together to discuss pressing issues in the Orthodox world. At the conference, individual’s papers are presented and then discussed by members of the forum. This year’s Orthodox Forum topic was on "Contemporary Uses and Forms of Hasidut." Titles of some of the sessions over the course of the two days included “Sociological and Theological Perspectives on Hasidut,” “Neo-Hasidic Perspectives on Contemporary Topics in Religious Life,” and the  “Use of Hasidic thought in contemporary thinkers and topics.” This year, select students from the Graduate Program for Women in Advanced Talmudic Study, RIETS, and the YU student body attended as well. As in every Orthodox Forum, the papers presented at this conference will be compiled and eventually published as a book.


“YOM’s” Lineup Exciting

Yeshiva University’s annual Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations have always been marked with special attention as the hallmark events of the spring semester. This year is set to be no different. This Wednesday and Thursday, YU will host a tekes for Israel’s fallen soldiers, saluting their service and bravery, before running a variety of events to celebrate Israel’s 67th birthday. From a ceremony highlighted by keynote speaker Avi Mayer, spokesperson for the Jewish Agency, to a late-night kumsitz and the traditional barbecue in Tenzer Gardens, this year’s program “will reflect how integral the State of Israel is to our identity,” says Josh Nagel, a member of Yeshiva College Student Association and one of the student leaders organizing the “YOM’s,” as the two days are referred to. “Daniella [Eisenman, of Stern College’s Torah Activities Council,] and I have worked hard these last few months and we’re very excited.”


YU Global Plans to Partner with Coursera

In his email to the student body sent over the Pesach break, President Richard Joel mentioned that “YU Global has gained membership in Coursera, the largest online learning platform in the world” and “will create a ‘Coursera specialization’ in a high demand field.” YU Global, of course, is YU’s recent initiative to provide education to a variety of audiences using technologically-advanced platforms, as “the “continuing education” arm of Yeshiva University,” according to their website. This new partnership will provide YU Global with access to Coursera’s 12 million users and learners, boosting its registration numbers as the program picks up steam.

According to Dr. Akiva Covitz, the Executive Director for Strategy of YU Global, “having short, free, open versions of modified YU courses on Coursera will drive people to the YU Global website for tuition-based certificates and degrees programs.” As YU Global attempts to enter a crowded market of online educational institutions, joining Coursera is only “one element of a broader strategy to break into the world of online learning,” Goldberg continued. “We are excited to use the...membership in a way to market our unique brand.”


YU Professors Earn Unusually High Salaries

A survey released on April 13 by the American Association of University Professors ranked New York colleges and universities in order of average faculty salaries and put YU at the number four spot. On average, the survey said, YU full professors earn $164,600 and tenure track faculty members earn $112,100. In comparison, half of the one hundred New York-based universities that participated in the survey pay full professors an average of less than $100,000. In 2014-2015, the average full professor at YU earned more than the average full professor at Fordham University, Barnard, Cooper Union, Stony Brook, and Colgate. Seven out of the ten universities with the highest faculty salaries are based in New York City. Columbia University pays the most, with its average full professors raking in $223,900 and tenure-track faculty earning on average $169,200.

After Columbia came NYU and Cornell, with Cornell closely followed by YU.

Salaries of university faculty members are generally on the rise, jumping 1.4 percent in 2014-2015. Along with this slight increase in salaries came a 16.6 percent drop in state aid for public colleges and universities nationwide since 2008-2009, with the State Universities of New York suffering a 29 percent drop in state aid. Certain educational fields are more lucrative; professors of science, medicine, law, and business earn higher salaries than professors of humanities. The survey might be somewhat misleading, though, as today’s university faculties are largely composed of part time faculty, adjuncts, and graduate students. Nevertheless, YU’s unusually high faculty compensation provides food for thought in the midst of this budgetary crisis.


Faculty Members Perform Innovative Research in Various Fields

Several Yeshiva College professors have recently made significant contributions to their areas of academic expertise. One professor published a book. Professor Lauren Fitzgerald, along with Professor Melissa Ianetta of the University of Delaware, recently co-authored The Oxford Guide for Writing Tutors. Published by Oxford University Press this April, the 616-page volume discusses recent cutting edge scholarship in the field of writing tutoring and, in the section titled “A Tutor’s Handbook,” provides a detailed description of the tutoring process and guidebook for writing tutors.

Another professor received a federal research grant. In mid-March, Dr. Rachel Mesch, Professor of French and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures, received a letter from the House of Representatives congratulating her on being selected for a highly competitive summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A specialist in late nineteenth-century French literature and culture, Professor Mesch will use the money from the grant to travel to Paris this summer to conduct archival research for her third book, tentatively titled Conjugal Fictions: Experiments in Marriage in the Belle Epoque.

Moving down to the molecular level, Professor of Chemistry Jianfeng Jiang, assisted by five students, recently published a research paper in the UK-based peer-reviewed journal Chemical Communications provocatively titled “Oxidation of Carbon Monoxide in Basic Solution Catalyzed by Nickel Cyano Carbonyls at Ambient Condition and the Prototype of a CO-powered Alkaline Fuel Cell.” The paper, part of a larger project funded by the National Science Foundation, identifies a room-temperature chemical reaction of carbon monoxide and demonstrates the possibility of a monoxide-powered fuel cell. The research, according to Professor Jiang, “provides the first step to the clean application of coal.”

Zooming in even further to the sub-molecular realm, Professor Gabriel Cwilich recently served as an organizing member of a conference titled Discussions on Nano and Mesoscopic Optics. The prestigious conference, which took place in El Chalten, Argentina from April 8-12, focused on “the structuring and manipulation of optical fields and interactions at sub-wavelength level,” a “highly active and interdisciplinary area of research.” Professors Cwilich’s presentation was titled “Determining Subwavelength Distances Between Point Light Emitters in a Turbid Environment from Noise and Correlations Measurements: Speckle Contrast Microscopy.” These recent contributions of YU professors to their various fields demonstrates the university’s continued engagement in the global scholarly conversation.


Rav Aharon Lichtenstein Passes Away at 81

This past Monday, Rabbi Dr. Aharon Lichtenstein, the Senior Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, RIETS Rosh Yeshiva, and inaugural Rosh Kollel of the Gruss Institute, passed away at the age of 81. Rabbi Lichtenstein held a doctorate in English literature from Harvard University, and was considered a leader in the modern Orthodox world.  1971, The son-in-law of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Rabbi Lichtenstein led the yeshiva in Alon Shvut for over forty years and was awarded Israel’s highest civilian honor, the Israel Prize, in 2014. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Tovah, his children Yitzchak, Moshe, Meir, Shai, Esti and Tonya and by two sisters Hadassah Kleiman and Shoshana Lichtenstein. Featured coverage will follow in The Commentator’s next issue.


New Lawsuit Brought in MTA Scandal

This week, the New York Post reported that Israel and Chaya Gutman, parents of one of the alleged molestation victims who attended YU’s Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy in the early 1980’s are filing a new lawsuit against the school, after one searching for $680 million in compensation was dismissed from court last year. In that federal case, the judge ruled that the statute of limitations had expired for the allegations over of thirty boys. This new lawsuit, which claims the school was “guilty of deceptive advertising by touting the high school as a safe place to send youths,” while originating from this single couple, will seek to gain the support of other parents of molested ex-students, according the couple’s lawyer, Kevin Mulhearn. Mulhearn represented the alleged victims in the initial lawsuit and specializes in sexual abuse cases. It is yet to be seen whether the statute of limitations will apply in this case.