Letter to the Editor: Alexander Chester

Date: January 3, 2017 8:10 pm
Author: Alexander Chester

To the Editor,

I’m a proud supporter and former student of YU (and also a graduate of MTA). But YU’s new advertising campaign is embarrassing. The campaign (see attached) makes three claims about other universities: Their sports teams play on Shabbat. Many have exams on holidays. And “other schools support BDS on campus.” Each of these is more preposterous and embarrassing than its predecessor.

First, does YU really want to be comparing its athletics program to that of other schools that potential YU students often consider, like Rutgers and the University of Maryland? I intend no disrespect to YU’s athletics program and its incredible Athletic Director Joe Bednarsh. But if anyone is choosing between such schools based on where they will have more fun as a fan of the home team, this argument isn’t favorable to YU.

The second argument is misleading if not outright dishonest. Yes, it is unavoidable at schools with diverse student bodies made up of different religious practices that occasionally a scheduled exam might conflict with someone’s religious calendar. But because such conflicts are so routine, they are respected, and rescheduling an exam is completely standard.

But the final claim is the worst. To start with, it is simply false to state that “other schools [institutionally] support BDS.” Yes, there are people within such institutions who do. But while BDS is terrible, ideological diversity is not. Is YU really bragging that its student (and faculty?) body is so monolithic that YU students will never have their preconceived notions challenged? Is YU really bragging that it has created a “safe space” that will prevent its students from confronting different opinions and learning how to defend their own? Most YU students arrive on campus from a modern Orthodox yeshiva day school bubble where they’ve never encountered anyone with differing opinions on the Middle East. This is a problem with our yeshiva day school education. If we wish to create passionate and informed advocates for Israel, we must educate our students to be prepared for the real world. When you leave school you’ll be confronted with those who disagree with you. Isn’t it the job of a university education to help prepare you to deal with that?

I still will be proud of my children if they choose to enroll at YU one day. But it will have to be despite this terrible ad campaign.

Alexander Chester

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