By: The Commentator Editorial Board | Editorials  | 

How President Berman Should Replace Town Hall Meetings

Dr. Berman recently told The Commentator that he will not be holding Town hall meetings. We call upon him to do the following in order to promote transparency, accountability, equal access, and community.

First, he should mandate that departments hold their own town hall meetings. Perhaps Dr. Berman should invest his time in loftier questions than those about the proverbial water pressure in the showers, but the literal water pressure in showers is exactly where Jonathan Schwab, Director of University Housing and Residence Life for the Wilf campus, should invest his time, something he did by holding a Housing Department town hall. We urge Dr. Berman to make this practice mandatory for other departments, such as academics, student life, and student finance. For those interested in the relevant topics, these localized town hall meetings will provide the transparency, accountability, and equal access that presidential town hall meetings were meant to promote.

Second, Dr. Berman must meet students at predetermined and spontaneous times. We suggest three specific contexts: First, in the fall of last year, President Richard Joel scheduled several meetings with open signups. Students who wanted to meet with the then-president simply filled out an online form and met him at the assigned time. Dr. Berman should do the same. Second, Dr. Berman must also spend several Shabbatot on both campuses. Last, he should continue to make unplanned - or at least unannounced - visits to campus and student events. When he makes rounds in the libraries, watches the SCDS play, and hands out swag on Swag Day, Dr. Berman gains invaluable insight into how young men and women live and learn at Yeshiva. Just by “showing up,” students can receive impromptu audience with the university president. Through these kinds of engagements, Dr. Berman and students can have real dialogue about real campus life.

In addition to addressing transparency, accountability, and equal access, this new model for administrator-student discourse has a particular upside: community building. Town hall meetings with President Richard Joel were at times impressive shows of his capabilities in politically correct verbal sparring matches. Dr. Berman has a different talent. He can not only ask his audience for their thoughts on any given matter, but also hear them, internalize their words, and respond to them thoughtfully.

We call upon Dr. Berman to join us in our mission to promote transparency, and meet with students in the same way that made him so welcomed when he first arrived: by hearing their voices and making them feel like they are all on the same team.