We Weren’t All in Morg Lounge
I read Neta Chizhik’s recent piece in The Observer about her Election Night experience, and am deeply disturbed. Disturbed, but not surprised. Only a week before the election, at the Morgenstern Hall (“Morg”) Lounge World Series watch party, a similar “Lock her up” chant erupted during a Hillary commercial. Yet even that was not surprising, given the general theme of hooting and hollering that manifests at collegiate male watch parties. I suspected what Neta described would occur, and purposely avoided the Morg Lounge party on Election Night.
On behalf of what I believe to be the majority of YU guys, I would like to say that we are sorry. We are sorry that Neta, and probably others, were disrespected. The behavior and attitude of students she described is inexcusable. Neta is, of course, right; there is no justification for their actions. We are truly sorry.
While we cannot change what happened, perhaps we can show that the nasty aspects of the Morg party are not representative of the true Wilf campus values. We respect the perspective of those who were offended and will not tell them what to think. But we request to at least be heard out.
Morg Lounge may have been packed with people, but the YU community is much bigger. We who weren’t in Morg Lounge on November 8th watched the election results in our dorm rooms and in our apartments. We attended viewing parties by relatives. We kept up with the live results in the library on our computers while trying to study for midterms. Many of us attended Night Seder or hung out with friends, willfully avoid the craziness as the results came in. Some of us didn’t even care at all about the election. Wherever we were, none of us chanted “Lock her up” at any point.
Some of us were dissatisfied with both presidential candidates and were not deeply affected by the surprising Trump victory. Some of us were either pro-Hillary, anti-Trump, or some mix of both, and were shocked and depressed by the result. Some of us felt, despite Trump’s disgusting character and lack of experience, that Trump, for various reasons, was better than the alternative, so we hoped he would win. But none of us adopted Trump’s incivility or his misogynism. Not during any moment of the campaign, not on Election Night, and not now. Not in thought, and not in practice.
We like to believe as well that even most of the guys at the Morg Lounge party are typically thoughtful people. Those individuals who chanted loudly, who talked down to Stern girls, and who laughed about sexual assault, did the wrong thing. “Males of this age demographic will say nonsensical things,” is no excuse. Our experience, though, is that the behavior Neta witnessed is, on the whole, the exception rather than the rule. The same guys who act like apes in some group settings spend most of their time as serious students who respect each other and act kindly toward one another.
It is wrong that these students show a bad side at parties like the one was organized, and this problem must be addressed. If I may step out of the collective group I’ve labeled, I will acknowledge that I unfortunately may have been naïvely optimistic until this point. The meanness that was exhibited in Morg Lounge is a part of our community, and is therefore, unfortunately, reflective of a part of us. And as much as I hope that the following was not the case, there probably were some people in their apartments, dorms, and library cubicles quietly chanting “Lock her up” and identifying with Trump’s vulgarity. I’m glad that Rabbi Jeremy Wieder’s speech about racism in our community has sparked much conversation about some of these problems.
I like to think that there is truth both in my hopefulness and in my realism. There is a part of me that knows that cruel behavior will unfortunately surface again on Wilf campus. But I don’t think this is incompatible with thinking, or at least with hoping, that the Morg Lounge Election Night behavior at the end of the day does not reflect our community’s basic values. And the (hopefully small) minority who deep down are racist, misogynist, or just plain old jerks, are the embarrassment of everyone else. Our community does not find their jokes funny, and we disassociate from their rudeness.
When I woke up in my Morg dorm room on November 9th, the sun was bright and the sky was clear. I had a congenial conversation with a friend about the election’s results, and went about my day with usual Seder, lunch, classes, and social interactions. The Morg Lounge Election party is not all there is to YU, despite all the attention that it has received. The story is not so dark.
Photo of Morgenstern Hall by Noam Beltran