By: Yitzchak Carroll and Elisheva Kohn  | 

Student Council Presidents Reinstate YU College Democrats

Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) President Ariel Sacknovitz (SSSB ‘20) and Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC) President Aleeza Katz (SCW ‘20) approved the YU College Democrats as an official club for the Fall 2019 Semester on Sept. 26, apparently reversing an earlier decision to deny the club’s approval following the LGBTQ march, which was organized by the College Democrats without official approval from student government representatives earlier this month.

On the morning of Sept. 26, all seven student council presidents released a joint statement reaffirming that all clubs must receive approval from the student government prior to coordinating any event, at the penalty of losing a club’s university-sanctioned approval. The statement further stated that “the student government feels strongly that it is important to have diverse public discourse,” and that the student council “value[s] the importance of the YU College Democrats club representing part of our varied student community.” The presidents contended that by holding an unapproved event under the auspices of a university-approved club, the College Democrats had violated Article VII, Section 2, Parts C and D of the Beren Constitution, which states that clubs must “complete and submit event request and speaker forms … in the appropriate timeframe.” 

The Beren Constitution assigns the power of giving and removing club status due to violations of “rules and norms” to the SCWSC VP of Clubs (Article IX, Section 1, Part B, Subsection vii), the position currently held by Elka Wiesenberg (SCW ‘20). At press time, Wiesenberg could not be reached for comment on her role in the decision to remove the College Democrats’ club status.

In an email sent later that day to College Democrats Presidents Courtney Marks (SCW ‘22) and Sarah Brill (SCW ‘20), Sacknovitz and Katz stated that “after careful consideration, the YU College Democrats will be sponsored by YSU and SCWSC this semester.” The email linked to the statement issued that morning and stated that “all club heads will be required to affirm that they agree to follow the rules set forth by the student councils in order to maintain club status and that they understand the consequences of breaking those rules.” According to the email, club heads will be sent a document that they must sign in order to ratify their agreement.

Marks was pleased with this outcome. “I see this as a huge win and am glad that they changed their minds and are allowing both parties to have a voice on campus,” she said. “There are no other stipulations that we have been told of as of right now and we have not yet been sent the document he wants us to sign.”

“During this time we have seen a power play,” Brill added. “This should have never happened in the first place and it put us through much stress and anxiety which should have never occurred. I hope it never happens again and we can work cohesively with the student councils and vice versa in the future.”

According to the Wilf Student Constitution (Article X, Section 4, Part 2), a majority vote of the General Assembly is required to dissolve an existing club, which did not occur in this situation. It remains unclear how the application for renewal by the YU College Democrats was rejected by Sacknovitz and Katz in the first place without approval by a majority of the General Assembly. Sacknovitz and Katz declined to comment on whether their email represents a true reversal of their prior position or merely a clarification that the club’s application for renewal was not legitimately rejected in the first place.

“This was a student government matter and the university was not involved in the decision,” said Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel when reached for comment. “We are happy to see that our student leaders were able to work together to resolve this matter and value the importance of having bipartisan representation on our campus.”

“The reinstatement of the Democrats showcases the reach of collective power,” said former College Democrats President Molly Meisels (SCW ‘21). “When the decision was made to refuse club renewal, students rose up. Their frustrations with the injustice propagated by the councils led them to enact real change. I hope next time the student council presidents agree to meet with club leaders before taking away club status. Communication is key to ensuring that justice is served.”

This is a developing story.

Avi Hirsch and Jacob Rosenfeld contributed to this story.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University