By: Ben Kohane  | 

Vote of "No Confidence" Highlights Internal Strife

Last week, the Yeshiva College (YC) faculty at Yeshiva University officially announced an overwhelming vote of “no confidence” in President Richard Joel. The no confidence vote, which tallied responses by full-time YC faculty, resulted in 80 percent voting “no confidence,” 3 percent voting “confidence,” and 17 percent abstaining, though only 64 percent of the faculty officially voted.

The Yeshiva College Executive Committee, elected representatives of the YC faculty, were asked to organize the vote on behalf of the faculty. They also released an explanatory statement accompanying the announcement of its results, which described the current financial situation and the faculty’s precarious role within it. “Spiraling deficits have left the university nearly $600 million in debt and [with] plummeting bond ratings...In an attempt to reduce its running deficits, Yeshiva University has been selling assets and making severe cuts to its academic and other operations.”

An open letter from the YC faculty was simultaneously published, further discussing the helpless perspective of professors as the university seeks to survive the current financial pressure. “We view...ensuring a vibrant, educationally sound curriculum and maintain high academic our responsibility...However, we have never received clear statements regarding the budgetary impacts of the proposed curricular changes.”

Though the Board of Trustees was quick to respond to the vote, sending out a university-wide email declaring they were “confident that President Joel and his administration will continue to work diligently to strengthen the bonds of collaboration and maintain the focus on the needs of our students, as well as the needs of the University as a whole,” the faculty remain unsatisfied.

In another statement, the YC Executive Committee reiterated that “the proposed solutions to the financial crisis being explored under President Joel's leadership… jeopardize Yeshiva College's ability to fulfill its mission, and threaten its very viability.” The faculty continue to fear that many of the improvements to the quality of undergraduate education here on campus, forged during the past ten years, may be wiped away by purely financial considerations. The vote, in the words, displayed the commitment of a “faculty deeply concerned for the education we are charged with offering our students.”

Indeed, while the vote of no confidence does not carry practical ramifications, it certainly signifies the growing discord between faculty and administration. Professor of English Gillian Steinberg, who pioneered and designed the Core’s First Year Writing and Seminar programs, recently told the Jewish Week, “We understand cuts need to be made, and we’ve gone along for a long time. But there isn’t a plan.”

Dr. Paula Geyh, an associate professor of English, shared similar sentiments: “This vote indicates the extraordinarily dedication of the Yeshiva College faculty to their students.” With reduced pension contributions and without raises, the faculty dedicated themselves to the College - without outcry, she continued. “What seems to have finally compelled the faculty to take action was not their own financial losses, but rather their deep concerns about maintaining the integrity and quality of Yeshiva College’s curriculum,” she explained.

Despite the disagreements, it seems like the faculty are willing to find common ground and redesign the curriculum - as long as there is increased transparency in the process. “We urge the Trustees,”  the YC Executive Committee’s statement concluded, “to consider the significance of our recent vote...and to work more closely and cooperatively with the faculty to address our shared concerns for [this] institution...We remain willing and eager to partner with the administration and trustees to consider changes in our recently revamped curriculum with the aim of preserving educational integrity and the maintenance of high academic standards under the current budgetary constraints.”