Students Discuss LGBTQ Issues at YCSA ‘Meet & Greet’
A Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA) “Meet & Greet” was held on the Wilf Campus on the evening of Dec. 9. Although the official title of the event was “YCSA Meet & Greet,” YCSA President Leib Wiener explained that the purpose of the event was to “show support to the LGBTQ community at YU.”
10 students came to the event, which was only promoted through WhatsApp messaging. At the event, which took place in YU’s Furst Hall, LGBTQ students and allies from the YU Pride Alliance led a conversation with other undergraduate students about LGBTQ matters at YU. The attending students spoke about campus attitudes towards the LGBTQ community, ways to humanize the LGBTQ community at YU and how to foster an LGBTQ-friendly environment.
“I wanted to give students the ability to voice their own opinions, struggles, and triumphs about being Jewish and LGBTQ in a safe and welcoming environment,” Wiener explained.
“Having a small, yet diverse, group of students meet to discuss how to better the lives of an underprivileged population gives me hope,” Molly Meisels, president of the YU Pride Alliance shared. “I, along with other members of the LGBTQ+ student body, allies, and student leaders, will continue to work on promoting dialogue on the issue of LGBTQ+ rights in our institution. This is just the beginning of our advocacy.”
Formed in September, the YU Pride Alliance is an unofficial student group that does not receive funding from YU’s Office of Student Life (OSL). According to its Facebook page, its mission is “to foster an environment of acceptance on [YU’s] campus for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies — community is at the root of what we stand for.”
“As President Berman and other administrators have noted, the students at Yeshiva University must create dialogue for the issues that we think are important at our institution,” Wiener explained. “To that end, creating dialogue about the grassroots LGBTQ community and its allies on campus was something that I thought was incredibly important.”
Students at the event also expressed frustration about the state of LGBTQ issues on campus. Among the topics raised were the inability to host LGBTQ events at YU, disappointing meetings with YU officials about LGBTQ concerns and YU’s refusal to sanction an LGBTQ club.
Past and future efforts to work with YU administration on addressing LGBTQ issues were reflected upon during the YCSA event. At one point this year, a student shared, eight students were invited to Senior Vice President Josh Joseph’s office to collaborate with him on possible solutions to LGBTQ concerns.
“The president has asked me to facilitate a number of meetings for the team with students — groups, individuals — as well as many others,” Joseph commented on that meeting. “Those are well underway, and we have had many learning opportunities through these conversations.”
This was not the first time YU students advocated for LGBTQ inclusion on campus. Last year, the YU College Democrats brought Ben Katz (YC ‘11), an LGBTQ activist, to YU to speak about LGBTQ inclusion in religious Israeli communities. Before that program, the last event at YU dealing with LGBTQ issues took place in 2010, when a panel organized by the Tolerance Club and the Wurzweiler School of Social Work was held on the topic of “Being Gay In The Modern Orthodox World.”
Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, The Commentator reported, then-current presidents of YU’s student councils met with President Berman and other university officials on numerous occasions to discuss LGBTQ-related issues, including the possibility of forming an official YU Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) club. Although the GSA club’s initial application was approved by Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC), Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) and YCSA in the spring of 2019, YU’s Office of Student Life denied the club’s application.
Conversations about LGBTQ inclusion on campus have resurfaced this year. Following the march for LGBTQ equality on campus on Sept. 15, the YU Pride Alliance was formed. Former YU employees and alumni later organized a “#PledgeNotToPledge” campaign leading up to YU’s annual Giving Day.
“[YCSA is] trying to help an underrepresented community start dialogue on campus,” Wiener noted. Other students at the event shared a similar sentiment. “LGBTQ awareness is an important discussion to have on campus,” remarked SCWSC VP of Clubs Elka Wiesenberg after the event, “and I’m proud to be a part in making it visible by participating in this event.”
As of the time of publication, Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel and Senior Director of Student Life Rabbi Josh Weisberg did not return a request for comment.
Photo Caption: Yeshiva College Student Association’s Logo
Photo Credit: Yeshiva University