By: Avi Hirsch and Benjamin Koslowe | News  | 

Undergraduate Men and Women Divided on Student Life Issues, Older Students Less Satisfied Overall, Survey Finds

A recent survey of YU undergraduate students conducted by The Commentator found that women tend to be more comfortable with mixed-gender situations than men. The survey also found noteworthy gender differences for issues related to President Berman and student life.

The survey polled 368 YU undergraduate students regarding a wide array of issues related to the college experience. These issues included social life, religious observance, student life, the administration and academics.

There was a sharp discrepancy between the satisfaction of men and women regarding cafeteria food, with a majority of men but a minority of women reporting being satisfied. Approximately half of the women surveyed reported being dissatisfied with their cafeteria food.

The YU library was similarly divisive, with men tending to be more satisfied (81 percent) than women (49 percent). And while a majority of both men and women disapprove of elevators on campus, women tended to be less satisfied than men. Nearly half of women stated that they are “extremely dissatisfied” with the elevators.

“I am very frustrated about the fact that there was only one working elevator for more than two days in the 245 Lexington building,” said Zahava Fertig (SCW ‘21). “Getting to class on time was nearly impossible.” She added, “Every teacher, every student knows that the elevators aren’t working. Many of the people around me are experiencing the same frustrations.”

The survey found that men tend to stay on campus for Shabbat more often than women, and Yeshiva College (YC) students more often than Syms-Men students.

When asked about President Berman’s job performance and vision for YU, many students, primarily women, answered “Don’t Know/Not Applicable.” Approximately half of female respondents answered “Don’t Know/Not Applicable” when asked to rate President Berman’s job performance and his vision for YU. Men generally seemed to have a better idea of President Berman’s performance, although Syms-Men students were slightly more likely than YC students to choose “Don’t Know/Not Applicable” (32 percent vs. 24 percent).

Overall, students from the Beren Campus were more likely to travel to Wilf than vice versa. Half of women — but only 13 percent of men — frequently or occasionally commute to the opposite campus. 87 percent of men stated that they rarely or never travel to the Beren Campus, whereas less than half of women rarely or never travel to the Wilf Campus.

With regard to the question of a woman speaking at the end of Shabbat morning minyan on the Wilf Campus, men were divided, with almost half of male respondents reporting being either somewhat or very comfortable, and almost half of men reporting being either somewhat or very uncomfortable. Men were similarly split on the issue of women eating in the Wilf cafeteria on Shabbat, with almost half of respondents coming down on either side of this issue as well. A majority of women reported being somewhat or very comfortable with both of these scenarios.

A majority of both men and women are comfortable with the opposite gender studying in the library on their respective campus, although more women than men reported being comfortable. Only 26 percent of men and 11 percent of women say that they would be uncomfortable with this situation. Responses were similarly split regarding attending mixed-gender extracurricular events.

The survey also found discrepancies in religious observance between YC and Syms-Men students.

Although a majority of both YC and Syms-Men students identify as Modern Orthodox, a smaller percentage of Syms-Men students than YC students identify as such. And while a minority of both YC and Syms-Men students identify as “Right-wing” Orthodox or Yeshivish, the percentage was higher for Syms-Men students than YC students.

The survey found that by several other measures, Syms-Men students tended to be more religiously observant than YC students. While 59 percent of YC students stated that they fully observe halakhah, 74 percent of Syms-Men students responded the same. Similarly, 68 percent of YC students stated that they are shomer negiah, versus 77 percent of Syms-Men students who said the same. Finally, 71 percent of YC students stated that they fully believe in God, compared to 89 percent of Syms-Men students who responded that way.

Across the board, older students tended to be less satisfied than younger students with many aspects of student life. (Note that we refrained from drawing conclusions from fourth year students, since they represented only 7 percent of respondents.)

Satisfaction with cafeteria food and cafeteria prices, for example, tended to be lower for third year students than second year students, with first year students being the most satisfied. This trend held for other areas of student life as well older students tended to be less satisfied with Shabbat on campus, and had a more negative “overall” sentiment towards student life at YU.

In many other areas of student life, students from all colleges were satisfied overall, including “Dorms/Housing” (55 percent of students satisfied), “Internet/IT” (74 percent satisfied) and “Extracurricular Options” (55 percent satisfied).

For a more detailed breakdown of the survey’s results, please see the article “Commentator Spring 2019 Survey: A Comprehensive Analysis.”