By: Yitzchak Carroll and Avi Hirsch  | 

YU College Democrats Denied Club Renewal

The Yeshiva University College Democrats will not be a university-sanctioned club this semester after their renewal application was rejected by the presidents of the Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) and the Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC), two branches of student government at YU, The Commentator has learned. Without the student government’s approval, they will be barred from running events, hanging up flyers on campus and receiving funding from student activity fees.

The decision to reject the club this semester was made on the heels of last week’s LGBTQ march on the Wilf Campus, which was organized by the YU College Democrats in an unofficial capacity. As the march was planned without approval from university officials or the student government — but under the name of the YU College Democrats — the presidents of YU’s student government decided to delay a decision on the club’s renewal until after the march, when they planned to revisit the matter, according to sources.

Despite warnings from the student government to remove their name from the event, the YU College Democrats proceeded with their name attached to march. Following the march, the presidents of YSU and SCWSC decided the club would not be renewed. The final list of approved clubs — released a week following the march — did not include the College Democrats. According to YSU President Ariel Sacknovitz (SSSB ‘20), the College Democrats are welcome to reapply for club approval for the spring semester.

“There are certain perks that come with being a YU-approved club on campus,” said Sacknovitz. “But those come with rules of having to be approved by the Student Council and needing Office of Student Life approval for speakers and events as well. By breaking those rules — even after being warned, and by opting out of [the rules] — then realistically, you don’t get the perks that come with it, such as the Student Council funding and the club approval.”

According to Sacknovitz, YU's Office of Student Life (OSL), which is the branch of the YU administration that deals with student activities on campus, did not influence the decision. He further emphasized that the decision was reached without factoring in the purpose of the march. “The consequences of purposefully going against the rules apply no matter who a club is affiliated with,” he said.

Molly Meisels (SCW ‘21), who previously served as president of the College Democrats and organized the march, first learned about the Student Councils’ decision to not renew the club from a Commentator inquiry. “I feel disappointed at the fact that my student council representatives are robbing the student body of the opportunity for diverse political opinion, especially since there are two Republican groups on campus,” said Meisels.

According to an email exchange obtained by The Commentator, Student Council leaders objected to the College Democrats’ sponsorship of the event without official approval, noting that the group could only continue to receive university funding if it complied with club protocols, which mandate pre-approval of events.

“It seems like nothing less than retaliation for the LGBTQ march that was hosted,” added Meisels. “YU receives funding from Democratic politicians. I don't think they would be too pleased to hear that Democratic voices are being suppressed at Yeshiva University.” The university receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from local Democratic politicians each year, according to city and state records.

“I am deeply disappointed by the decision to strip the YU College Democrats of their club status. This decision serves to confirm the fears of queer Yeshiva University students and sends a clear message: you are unwelcome here," said State Assemblymember Dan Quart (D-Manhattan). "Now is the time for Yeshiva University to step up and voice its unequivocal support for its LGBTQ students and reinstate the College Democrats, instead of choosing to stymie conversation and hand down undue punishment.”

Rachel Zakharov (SCW ‘20), co-president of the YU College Republicans, was similarly disappointed by the decision. “By revoking club status from the College Democrats, healthy political discourse is limited,” she said.

In an email to Meisels, the student government presidents explained, “A club does not have the right to do anything in both official and unofficial capacities on campus. An approved student club of the YU Student Councils is dependent on the Student Councils; they cannot claim independence whenever it fits their mission.”

“There is no other way to describe this besides disgusting and utterly partisan,” said Courtney Marks (SCW ‘22), co-president of YU College Democrats. “It is not just disappointing, it is appalling; instead of reaching out to us to inform us of their decision, we had to find out from [The Commentator] asking for our opinion. America is a democracy and this school should be a representation of that, and sadly right now it is not.”

A Yeshiva University spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with further clarification of the decision to deny the renewal of the College Democrats.

Elisheva Kohn contributed to this story.

Photo Caption: The logo of the YU College Democrats
Photo Credit: YU College Democrats