From the President’s Desk: SCWSC — What’s In a Name?
“Are you coming to YU tonight?”
“I’m at Stern so yes….”
“No, I mean the Heights. YU.”
I understand why students call the Wilf Campus “YU.” The campus holds Yeshiva College, Sy Syms Wilf, a majority of the administration, the main university library, the Roshei Yeshiva, and a few of YU’s graduate schools. But the language becomes a problem when people start referring to the two campuses as “YU and Stern.” First of all, it excludes Syms Beren, a smaller but equally important part of the Beren community. But doing so also marginalizes the Beren Campus as a whole and contributes to the sentiment on campus that the men of Yeshiva University are more important that the women of Yeshiva University.
As President of the Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC), I have seen the frustration among students who feel as if they are second-class citizens at YU. Most coed events are held uptown, the offices of the YU President, deans, and administrators exist primarily on the Wilf campus, and the resources for school-wide promotions such as “I Am YU” are skewed heavily toward Wilf. These and related complaints are valid, but it is also true that these realities are often a part of Yeshiva University for sensible reasons. Many clubs like to hold events at Wilf so they don’t have to worry about losing men attendees due to the male students’ late schedules and because Wilf has larger event spaces. Food prices are less expensive uptown as well, so it does sometimes make sense to prefer Wilf as a host site. Additionally, while I would love to see more administrators downtown, I understand that a university functions more effectively when the administration works in one area. As Wilf holds most of the schools within Yeshiva University, I can come to terms with traveling uptown if I want to speak to the university President, a privilege I recognize I might not have at all at a different university.
Many of these factors of Stern’s disconnectedness are inherent, no one’s fault, per se. But these factors do exist, and they make the seemingly trivial matter of referring to the two campuses as “YU and Stern” so important. Beren students already deal with reduced access to YU administrators, shuttling uptown to use the library with more extensive resources, and getting sidewise glances from men who seem surprised when they see Beren students using the Wilf facilities. And for the most part, we’ve learned to cope with these inconveniences and have decided that attending Yeshiva University is worth it. But calling uptown “YU” makes it seem like the Beren campus is an afterthought. That Wilf is the true Yeshiva University, and all undergraduate women are separate from the YU community. It’s something so minute that most people, students and non-students, don’t even realize its implication. I don’t think anyone intentionally refers to Wilf as YU and to Beren as Stern to indicate that Beren is second-class. No one intends to separate Stern from Yeshiva University, but in those few words, he or she has removed Stern from the Yeshiva University umbrella.
I’ve noticed students use this word usage even when they are not attempting to differentiate between campuses. While purely my own experience, I have found that when asked where they go to school, men tend to respond “Yeshiva University” while women answer either “Stern” or “Syms.” I am not advocating one answer over the other. Still, I think the difference speaks to the fact that Beren students feel less like members of Yeshiva University than do Wilf students.
This past year, SCWSC has attempted to foster a stronger sense of community on campus, particularly for the Beren students. Part of our goal was not only to strengthen community on the downtown campus, but also to encourage students to think of the Wilf campus as their home as well. In my opinion, we still have a long way to go. A small step in the right direction would be to stop referring to Wilf and Beren as YU and Stern, respectively. Perhaps if we refer to all three undergraduate institutions at Yeshiva University as “Yeshiva University” and find a different way to distinguish between campuses (Beren and Wilf is an option), we can at least promote equality in a way that keeps inconveniences to a minimum.