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An Empire Worth the Struggle

Self-help books often maintain the mantra that while not everything is in our control, our response and our attitude can be controlled in every situation. When faced with difficulty, we show our strength (or weakness) in our response.

It is undeniable that our university is facing challenging financial times. As students, it is frustrating and frightening to hear the numbers, to try and comprehend the debt that we are facing. However, we have a choice. We can, as The Commentator’s editorial board has done thus far, decry the failures of the university, of its leadership and its administration. We can express to the world that we are upset, perhaps rightly so, about the cuts that are being made and will continue to be made in the future. Or, we can consider a different route. We can recognize the mistakes that have been made and the hurdles that we face and still stand by our university. I am not suggesting that we support YU because I am averse to critique and criticism. I agree that there have been issues with the way money was handled and the debt that was allowed to accumulate.

I support YU because of what it represents to me. I believe that Yeshiva University is unique in more ways than one. Firstly, it is the only institution where you can receive a high quality education in both secular and Judaic studies. But YU is so much more than just its academics. What makes YU different from every other university goes beyond the classroom. The community that we have here, the opportunities to be involved and to lead, and the environment of Torah observance cannot be found anywhere else. YU is the only university where a student can be true to his or her Orthodox values and observances while participating in athletics, Model UN, drama, and debate. It is the only place where students can attend all events, knowing that they won’t be on Shabbat or serve non-Kosher food. It’s the only place where every mission trip is sensitive to Halakha and creating a wholesome environment. It is a place small enough for students to make deep connections with professors but large enough for hundreds of clubs and events to function.

Many of the changes that made YU into such a far-reaching, unique institution were made under this administration. The Center for the Jewish Future was born, allowing students and graduates to reach out to communities near and far and spread learning and passion beyond our campuses. Facilities were improved and updated, modernizing and expanding the university. From Glueck to wifi in nearly all of the buildings, these changes and improvements were invaluable.

Unfortunately, the economy was not on our side. Madoff severely damaged the university, and various scandals did not make it easy for us, either financially or in terms of reputation. For the time being, spending must be limited, but the focus on growth should be maintained.

While the financial decisions made may not have always been the most responsible, I do not find myself outraged because I believe in the mission for which this money was spent. I believe that it was important to expand YU, to create even more opportunities for student involvement.

I understand the struggle between administration and faculty. I agree wholeheartedly that academics and courses should not be plucked more, as our course offerings are already growing thin. I empathize with the faculty members whose pay has been frozen and cut, as they are currently feeling the pain of the debt most strongly. As a student who, like most of us, is not involved in determining the budget of Yeshiva University, I see and understand both sides. It is not the time to create division or choose sides. It is the time to show support and loyalty and our hope for a bright future. As the newspaper that claims to represent the student body of Yeshiva University, The Commentator should be informing the students and the community and constructively criticizing the faults of the university with the end goal of ensuring that YU remains the flagship institution that we know it to be. I know I speak for many in recognizing the crucial role that YU holds in the Jewish community, a role and responsibility that needs our support to remain strong.  I believe it is unnecessary and ineffective to vilify the administration and depict images of doom, despair, and crumbling empires.

I think we all know that YU is not going to close down tomorrow, or next year, or even in the foreseeable future. I believe it is obvious that the administration is not going to fire every professor and cut all course offerings. It’s true, we will have to cut down. There will be have to be less programming, which is disappointing. But we can remain strong in our convictions and our belief in the importance of YU’s unique mission. It should be our desire to uphold this institution as best we can.