By: Avi Strauss  | 

Transition for Directorship at Student Life Office

With the departure of the Director of Student Life Yehezkel (“Hezzy”) Jesin this past summer, the Office of Student Life (OSL) has begun the year without a director. Jesin, who served as the Director of Student Life for 5 years, resigned from his post to become Executive Director of the Riverdale Jewish Center (RJC).
Commenting on the work Jesin had done at YU during his tenure, Dean of Students Chaim Nissel was full of praise, exuding “Hezzy was a wonderful member of the Student Life team for 5 years and we are in his debt for all that he did for the student community. He greatly enjoyed his work with students.”
Given the various faculty departures and changes across the university, there was some speculation that Jesin departed over some dispute with a part of the administration. However, when asked about the circumstances regarding Jesin’s departure, Dean Nissel denied those rumors, stating: “He [Jesin] moved on to a new opportunity that came late in the year,” adding “we are confident he will be successful there as well.”
Mr. Jesin had not responded to The Commentator’s request to comment as of publication.
For now, various staff members at the Office of Student Life have been filling the role and assuming the responsibilities of the Director of Student Life, until a full-time replacement is hired. Dean Nissel stated he has been working closely with the staff at both the Wilf and Beren campuses, and is “confident that we are keeping all aspects of the Office of Student Life and the student experience as great as ever.” Dean Nissel continued by saying that the “hard work” of Linda Stone, Aliza Abrams, Tami Adelson, Stanton Fellow Malka Sigal and Rabbinic Intern Zac Katz have kept the OSL running smoothly.
In fact, it seems the Office of Student Life has expanded its operations during orientation. This year, new components like a boat ride for new students with Rabbi Penner, Rabbi Brander, mashgichim, madrichim and Dean Nissel himself were added to orientation week. “It was an enjoyable way to combine sightseeing with good company. Definitely a success!” said new student Josh Blicker (YC ’18).
Further, this year the Wilf campus welcomed last year’s Beren “on campus” couple, Housing Director Jonathan Schwab and his wife, Dr. Esty Rollhaus, who will be contributing to the Shabbat experience in the coming year. It is developments like these that show, even in the absence of a director, the OSL is as vibrant as ever.
While other YU positions that were vacated this summer were subject to “rightsizing” according to President Joel, with various positions and responsibilities being integrated and consolidated, it appears the OSL will suffer no such contraction. Rabbi Brander and Dean Nissel have been carefully searching for a new director. Due to the importance of the position they have assembled a committee that includes current OSL staff Aliza Abrams and Linda Stone, as well as student leaders. Student leaders will be working very closely with the new director, and Dean Nissel and Rabbi Brander have been seeking their feedback.
More specifically, student leaders on the Wilf campus were invited to meet with a person under consideration for hire. “The idea was not for us to ask him questions as if it were a second interview round, but rather to schmooze with him and try and get a sense of whether or not he was someone we could see ourselves potentially working with” said YSU President Noam Safier (YC ’17). Safier added “I certainly think it was a good idea to include us. After all, we are the ones who will be working with him very closely on a variety of issues that will likely test our emotional and intellectual competence and it’s important to make sure we’d feel comfortable bringing them up with him and asking for advice.”
YCSA President Josh Nagel echoed the sentiment: “It was important for the Office of Student Life to observe us schmoozing with the candidate to evaluate the candidate’s demeanor and interactions with students. And it was important for the candidate to meet us to decide whether the job fits expectations and that this student population will be appropriate to work with. Nagel went on to say : “I think students should be included in important decisions more often throughout the university. Student Life’s insistence on not making a decision without our input is a great first step for empowering students more on campus.”
Certainly, it seems, all due diligence to ensure the new Director will be fit for the position and that the foundation for any future director will be properly laid prior to his or her arrival, has been paid. Now it’s just a matter of finalizing who it will be.