Amid a Reworking of Hebrew, Problems Arise
Some students in the Mazer Yeshiva Program (MYP) are currently facing a dilemma: due to a scheduling conflict, students must take their Hebrew 1105 class either during seder, shiur, or the MYP lunchtime slot.
This difficulty comes amid a reshuffling of how Hebrew is taught in Yeshiva College (YC). Previously, the classes had been taught in the afternoon during the regular courses slot; now, Hebrew is taught during the traditional MYP Bible slot, with an additional hour during one of the Club Hours. Yeshiva College Dean Dr. Barry Eichler explained to The Commentator that, over the past few years, a cross-collaborative effort between himself, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS Rabbi Yona Reiss, and the administrators of the morning Torah Studies programs had been working on transforming the way Hebrew is taught in both YC and Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB), leading to the change.
The system of the past few years had caused a number of issues. By requiring incoming First Time on Campus (FTOC) students to first register in Israel for Hebrew classes before the rest of their college classes, students risked not being able to taking crucial classes they wanted to take in order to fulfill the Hebrew requirement. In addition to triggering an unfavorable situation within the student body – something that the administration wished to avoid – it was also seen by the Office of Admissions as a discouraging factor for students looking to come to YU. Thus, to avoid this, the classes were moved to a slot where there would no longer be such a conflict.
Another issue the old system created was the class known as Hebrew 1204. For students who did not place into Hebrew 1205, an extra semester of Hebrew was required. Dean Eichler stressed that this was unfair on students as it may feel like students were being punished for the lack of a strong Hebrew education in high school. Instead, a new Hebrew track was started for students who did not place into Hebrew 1205 – Hebrew 1105 and 1106. By taking both classes, students fulfill their Hebrew requirement in two semesters. The classes differ from their 1200 (and 1300) level counterparts in being taught for one hour, four days a week.
As both Dean Eichler and Dr. Shawn Zelig Aster – former coordinator of the Hebrew program – stressed, introductory study of any language requires intensive study as many days a week as possible. Numerous studies, including one conducted by Dr. Aster himself, have concluded that learning Hebrew only twice per week is not sufficient, especially for students who struggle to grasp the language. (One of Dr. Aster’s studies can be found on http://lookstein.org/lookjed/read.php?1,18718,18718.) For students of 1105, it became required that they take a class offered all four days of the week.
Problems arose, however, when trying to find a time to teach the class. Students who required 1105 in the Isaac Breuer College (IBC) or Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program (SBMP) had time available before 3pm – the time when regular classes start. Students of MYP enrolled in 1105 faced a greater difficulty. The standard MYP schedule has morning seder from 9 A.M. until midday, around an hour’s break for lunch, and shiur starting between 1pm and 1:15pm. The only available hour was during the lunchtime slot.
This situation has left some students dismayed. The Commentator spoke to Avi Persin (YC ‘16) who faces some days with no break, a situation that he feels takes a toll on both his Torah and secular studies. For Avi, the difficulty is exacerbated by his professor’s refusal to allow students to eat in class. The Commentator contacted the professor, but she was unavailable to comment.
During the past week, Rabbi Yosef Kalinsky, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Torah Studies, held a meeting with the students affected by the situation in an attempt to discover a solution but as yet, nothing has been solved.
In an interview with The Commentator, Rabbi Reiss, emphasized his willingness to work together with other members of the administration to solve the issue speedily – a notion also highlighted by Dean Eichler.
As of now, amidst a strong reworking of how Hebrew is taught in YC and SSSB, the issue of 1105 has surfaced. At the present time it has yet to be solved, but Dean Eichler remains confident that a solution will soon be reached and a greater mutual vision for how Hebrew is taught will be achieved.