A Comprehensive Analysis of YU Undergraduate Student Leaders
When one thinks of the leaders of Yeshiva University, many names may come to mind: President Ari Berman; Rabbi Menachem Penner; Dean Karen Bacon; the list goes on and on. Yet, there is another group of leaders at YU with which many of us interact with on a much more intimate and practical basis than any dean or rabbi: our fellow students.
Between Oct. and Dec. 2018, The Commentator conducted a survey of undergraduate student leaders to examine trends and patterns among this small group of students. While the definition of “student leader” may mean something different to everyone, for the purpose of this survey, The Commentator defined “student leaders” as those that directly contribute to non-academic campus culture. In this article, the term “student leader” thus refers exclusively to student council members, Student Life Committee members, Wilf Campus resident advisors (RAs) and head resident advisors (HRAs), Beren Campus RAs, Commentator editors, Observer editors and club presidents.
Unlike their Wilf Campus HRA counterparts, Beren Campus Graduate Advisor (GA) equivalents were not surveyed as they are not undergraduate students. Shiur and teacher’s assistants, Writing Center and peer tutors and Honors Council members were not considered, as they predominantly contribute to strictly academic campus culture. Other campus publications were not considered independent categories due to their size, specificity and nuance. However, they were included as clubs, and editors-in-chief of each publication were asked to fill out the survey.
The survey asked for basic demographic information: age, campus, hometown, college, major, minor, year on campus, leadership position(s) and for Wilf students, morning program. The survey also asked if student leaders took a gap year(s). For those that did, students were asked how many gap years they took and which institution(s) they attended. The category of academic minor was disregarded as too many students either did not have one or were undeclared. A total of 178 students responded to the survey, making up 8.5 percent of the undergraduate student body currently on campus, according to the Fall 2018 YU Fact Book (provided by YU’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment).
Of the 178 students who completed the survey, 51 percent (91 respondents) attend classes on Wilf Campus, while 49 percent (87 respondents) attend classes on Beren Campus. All data pertains to the Fall 2018 semester.
According to the survey, the average age of a YU student leader is 20.8. The most common age of student leaders is 21 (39 percent), followed by a second most common age of 20 (26 percent) and a total of just 10 percent who are under 20 years old. The oldest student leader is 23, while the youngest is 17.
Year on Campus
Most student leaders (55 percent) are in their third year on campus. They are followed by second year students (26 percent), fourth year students (12 percent), first year students (7.3 percent) and fifth year students (0.6 percent).
A plurality of student leaders surveyed attend Stern College for Women (SCW), comprising 42 percent of student leaders. This is slightly higher than their general enrollment, where SCW students make up 38 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus. They are followed by Yeshiva College (YC) students, who represent 28 percent of student leaders. This is also slightly higher than their general enrollment, where YC students make up 25 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus.
Syms Wilf contains 21 percent of student leaders, despite making up 26 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus. Syms Beren contains 10 percent of student leaders, slightly higher than the 7.8 percent of the student undergraduate population on campus which they comprise.
No students from the Katz School on Beren or Wilf serve in any student leadership positions. Katz Beren makes up less than 1 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus, while Katz Wilf makes up 1.6 percent of the undergraduate student body on campus.
(The percentage data above exceeds 100 percent to account for student leaders that attend two colleges. Students who attend YC/Stern and Syms are counted in both groups. The chart below includes those that attend both Syms and Stern/YC as a separate category)
Most student leaders come from either New York (NY) or New Jersey (NJ), making up 26 percent and 23 percent of the student leader population, respectively. These states are followed by California (CA) with 10 percent, Florida (FL) with 7.4 percent and Maryland (MD) with 5.7 percent.
International students make up 7.4 percent (13 respondents) of student leaders. 54 percent (7 respondents) of the international student leaders are from Canada. The other countries of origin for student leaders are China, England, Israel, the Netherlands and Panama.
The most popular major among student leaders is biology, with 18.5 percent (33 respondents) of the student leader population majoring in the subject. This is higher than the 12.9 percent of the YU undergraduate student body that is majoring in biology. The next most popular major is a two-way tie between political science (10.1 percent, 18 respondents) and accounting (10.1 percent, 18 respondents). Political science majors make up a much larger percentage of student leaders than of the general student body, as only 2.8 percent of undergraduate students are majoring in political science. Following those two majors are psychology (9.5 percent, 17 respondents) and business intelligence and marketing analytics (BIMA) (8.4 percent, 13 respondents). (The Commentator could not collect reliable data on overall major demographics for Syms students.)
Other notable over-representations include English and computer science majors, which make up 7.9 percent (14 respondents) and 7.3 percent (13 respondents) of student leaders’ majors, respectively. When it comes to the overall undergraduate population, only 3.3 percent of the student body majors in each of these individual subjects.
(The percentage data exceeds 100 percent to account for double and triple majors. An individual student is counted in as many categories as they have majored in. The data accordingly represents the number of students who have majored in that subject.)
The most populated morning program amongst Wilf student leaders is the Mazer School of Talmudic Studies (MYP), with 47 percent (43 respondents) of student leaders enrolled. This is slightly higher than the 43 percent of students enrolled in MYP from among all students enrolled in an Undergraduate Torah Studies (UTS) program. The program with next highest representation is the Isaac Breuer College (IBC), which makes up 30 percent (27 respondents) of student leaders, higher than its overall UTS enrollment of 20 percent.
Following IBC is the Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program (SBMP), which makes up 21 percent (19 respondents) of Wilf student leaders compared to its overall UTS enrollment of 24 percent. The James Striar School (JSS) has significantly fewer student leaders, making up just 2.2 percent (2 respondents) of the student leader population. This is significantly lower than its overall UTS enrollment of 13 percent.
88.2 percent (157 respondents) took a gap year, while 11.8 percent (21 respondents) did not take a gap year.
Of the student leaders that took gap years, 61 percent (96 respondents) took a single gap year. This is followed by the 24 percent (38 respondents) who took two gap years and 12 percent (19 respondents) who take one and a half gap years. 1.9 percent (3 respondents) took three gap years.
Gap Year Program
Amongst Wilf student leaders, the most represented yeshiva is Shaalvim for Men, which accounts for 14 percent (13 respondents) of all Wilf student leaders. This is on par with the 15 percent of Shaalvim for Men students that compose the student body, as reported in The Commentator’s latest article on gap year program trends. The second most represented yeshiva is Gush, which accounts for 13 percent (12 respondents). Overrepresented by 4 percent, Gush only makes up 9.3 percent of the Wilf student body. The third most represented yeshiva is Torat Shraga, which accounts for 11 percent (10 respondents). This is also the third most represented yeshiva amongst YU undergraduates, making up 12 percent of the Wilf student body, and is thus underrepresented by 1 percent.
These were followed in popularity by Netiv Aryeh, which accounts for 11 percent (10 respondents), and Hakotel, which accounts for 10 percent (9 respondents). Netiv Aryeh makes up 16.5 percent of the Wilf student body and is thus underrepresented by 5.5 percent, while Hakotel makes up 11 percent of the Wilf student body and is thus underrepresented by 1 percent.
Amongst Beren student leaders, the most represented midrashot are Michlalah and Shaalvim for Women, which each respectively account for 14 percent (12 respondents) of all Beren student leaders. Michlalah makes up 9.6 percent of the Beren student body, and is thus overrepresented by 4.4 percent. Shaalvim for Women makes up 18 percent of the Beren student body, and is thus underrepresented by 4 percent.
The third most represented midrasha is Michlelet Mevaseret Yerushalayim (MMY), which accounts for 13 percent (11 respondents). MMY makes up 17 percent of the overall Beren study body, and is thus underrepresented by 4 percent. These were followed in popularity by Migdal Oz, which accounts for 11 percent (10 respondents). Migdal Oz makes up 4 percent of the Beren student body, and is thus overrepresented by 7 percent. Harova and Nishmat each account for 7 percent (6 respondents) respectively. Harova is thus underrepresented by 3 percent, accounting for 10 percent of the Beren student body, while Nishmat is overrepresented by 5 percent, accounting for 2 percent of the Beren student body.
Notable statistical discrepancies include Mevaseret, which makes up 10.9 of the Wilf student body but 3.3 percent of Wilf student leaders; Tiferet, which makes up 12.3 percent of the Beren student body but 4 percent of Beren student leaders; and Midreshet Moriah, which makes up 14 percent of the Beren student body but 2.3 percent of Beren student leaders. Only 1 student leader in the survey served in the IDF, while 2 served through Sheirut Leumi.
(The percentage data exceeds 100 percent to account for shana aleph, shana bet and shana gimmel students, as well as students that switched programs in the middle of a year. An individual student is counted in as many categories as the number of separate programs which they attended. The data accordingly represents the number of students who have attended that program.)
The average number of student leader positions held per student leader is 1.3. 77 percent (137 respondents) of student leaders hold 1 position, 15 percent (27 respondents) hold 2 positions and 6.2 percent (11 respondents) hold 3 positions. The largest number of positions held is 4, which is attributable to only 2 of the 178 student leaders surveyed.
Chana Weinberg contributed to this article.
Notes on Methodology
- Within each category of student leaders, a minimum of 70 percent responded to the survey, with the exception of the 69 percent of student council members who responded. Within the category of club presidents, the percentage of represented club presidents within the survey could not be calculated due to an indeterminable number of total club presidents. Because of the unavailability of this statistic, the total number of student leaders on campus and percentage of student leaders surveyed could accordingly not be calculated.
- The following are the percentage of student leaders who fall into each category of student leaders surveyed, followed by the response rate within this category: student council members (15 percent, 69 percent); Student Life Committee members (12.9 percent, 88 percent); Wilf Campus resident advisors (RAs) (7.9 percent, 70 percent); Wilf Campus head resident advisors (HRAs) (2.2 percent, 100 percent); Beren Campus RAs (9 percent, 84 percent); Commentator editors (5.1 percent, 75 percent); Observer editors (3.9 percent, 100 percent). Of the total number of student leaders surveyed, 75 percent were club presidents.
- Data regarding undergraduate college populations, majors and morning program came from the Yeshiva University Fall 2018 Fact Book, produced by the Office of Institutional Research & Assessment.
- Statistics in the “Gap Year Program” section on yeshiva and midrasha representation within the general student body are stated as reported in The Commentator article “A Comprehensive Analysis of Which Yeshivot and Seminaries YU Students Attend,” written by Jacob Rosenfeld.
- The survey was conducted by Google Forms. Emails containing the survey link were sent to student leaders individually.