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YU, in Love and Squalor

The Wilf Campus can, when the sun is right and the students are tucked away in class, achieve a quiet, nearly aching beauty. The benches gleam with late rays, and the heart of the city can be glimpsed all the way down the avenue. Problem is, this can all be a bit much to process when you’re late to class due to some unspecified registrar snafu. Note that I use the term snafu the way WW2 soldiers used it. Fubar works here as well, if you can’t get your IBC credits straight, or were one of the (seemingly) randomly selected students to be prosecuted for shiur tardiness. The darker side of CJF raffles indeed. You then go off to class, which can range from the kind of enlightened discourse and knowledge dissemination that remind you of the wonders of idea and thought, to the kinds of Draconian hellholes Kafka dreamt about from his insurance desk.

My point is as follows: Yeshiva University plays host to a wide variety of events and occurrences; scenes, in short. (I feel like I should acknowledge the pun in some way, as tribute to section overlord Kaufman.) I would like to take the opportunity to detail and discuss a few scenes that I’ve either experienced or fabricated. These situations for me capture in some small way the overwhelming and multifarious experience that is the Jewniversity. (Half-hearted apologies to Touro, Lander, Ner Yisroel, etc. Shut up Hebrew U.)

Let’s start with something basic, the roommate. I remember showing up the first day of my first semester, going through the whole check-in routine, waiting on line for photo ID, signing a bunch of random forms and getting my keys, all these little rituals culminating in that grand moment: my arrival in my dorm. There I waited for the person I was going to be living with for the next four months, perhaps the next 36, as some are known to do. I sat on my nice soylent-green-based mattress and waited for the man. He never showed up, because it turned out he didn’t exist. The gods of admissions frowned upon the size of the incoming class, and so the gods of housing smiled upon me in turn. I had my own room. Ok so this scene is basically irrelevant for most of you. My bad. Next scene.

From the fresh-faced innocence of orientation we now travel to the furthest reaches of damnation, the wretched pit from whence original sin sprang forth as well as the site of our next scene: registration. Now, many of us registered in Israel. We had to get on the bus to the top of some annoyingly outskirt-ish hill in Jerusalem, and eat stale rugelach while a dean exhorts to take classes on topics so boring our mind barely perceives them in the interest of self-preservation. This is but the prelude to some more sinister fugue, that of walking into Furst, and taking the right-hand path (devious!) to the Registrar. Abandon hope, and future career aspirations, all ye who entre. Just try to remember as you’re being bounced from desk to desk that this not the sum total of YU, though granted that is difficult when you get a CRN error message along the lines of Error: Wrong Eye Color or whatever. We move on.

The next scene for our purposes would have been the Caf Store, in all its gouging glory, but it hath been corrupted in the name of progress and arbitrary rearranging. It did make room for some Starbucks-on-campus licensing though, so all’s fair in love and capitalism, I guess.

So we detour to the Heights Lounge. What I can say about the Heights Lounge. Fairly little to be honest, but people seem to spend much much time here, so it has to be mentioned I guess. About half of YU’s procrastination gets done here, as well the President’s Town Hall Meetings. Which is more enjoyable is a matter of preference I imagine. Here one can glimpse the YU social scene in all its barely extant glory. People, in variously colored clothing, gather around one another at couches and tables and converse. It seems nice. I usually find a corner and drown it out with something loud and cacophonous, but even then, I’ll spot that one person who sees the light of day biannually, and I’ll have to go say hi. This is the heights lounge. Quite the scene.

The shuttle. If going out and doing things in fairly loud environments appeals to you, you will be patronizing YU’s shuttle service. Here we have our third scene, but like every other scene here, it has many permutations of such. There’s going downtown: The Before, and back uptown: The After. But to be honest, pre-gaming has served to eliminate such distinctions. Here much of what makes YU unique and banal comes into play. It’s as fascinating a scene as any. Leaving aside all the easy jokes and commentary about men and women that the shuttle has entailed, there is much going on here. It’s one of the few venues where the many many many MANY social mores of YU are tweaked if not abandoned, if only for certain stretches of the FDR. Seeing a wide variety of fellow students, and hearing what adventures and misdemeanors they plan on getting up to is a lesson all its own. It is here that the unspoken boundaries and groupings of the Caf and Heights Lounge seem to melt away in the darkness of the shuttle’s interior. Who knows, if there’s a traffic jam, you may even make a new friend, or not. I love my headphones.

I haven’t even gotten to Morning Programs, or the CJF, or even indeed the Town Hall Meetings. Those all deserve articles too, but I’m only capable of generating so much venom at once, and I’m only ceding YU so much vis-a-vis my mental health. Anyways, where was I. Oh yes, YU. Number 45 with a bullet. Your one-stop shop for nobility and ability, or something like that.

So the next time you encounter some sort of social or bureaucratic situation that has you beseeching the heavens for answers, remember this. This is Yeshiva University, and you have a much better chance for salvation if you join an a cappella group or go on a CJF trip to the Congo. That’s about it really. If all else fails, well, the Counseling Center is that way, and their competence will both shock you and restore your faith. Nowhere But Here.