By: Daniel Melool  | 

A Modern History of the Wilf Student Constitution

The Yeshiva Student Union (YSU) has released a tentative text of the updated Wilf Student Constitution, incorporating various amendments that have been passed over the past few years. The changes come amidst the recent controversy surrounding the eligibility of Zachary Greenberg (SSSB ‘21) to succeed Ariel Sacknovitz (SSSB ‘20) as YSU President.

It was unclear if Greenberg would be allowed to serve as YSU President since he was serving as a resident adviser for the seventh floor of Rubin Hall. Article II, Section 10(1) of the Constitution bars resident advisers from serving as members of the General Assembly, of which the YSU President is a part. The issue came before the Student Court until Greenberg announced he would resign from his position as RA to assume the presidency. The Student Court, thus, did not formally rule on the question of whether this clause applied to successive presidents or only elected presidents as the case was declared moot before it could be adjudicated. 

The case also renewed frustrations over the proper interpretation of the Constitution as Chief Justice Phillip Dolitsky (YC ‘20), wrote for a unanimous court, “We write here to raise awareness to what we saw as the bigger issue than a contested presidency; a poorly designed and outdated Constitution.”  

To help clear misunderstandings regarding the Constitution, The Commentator looked into its history.

The Commentator spoke with Adam Zimilover (YC ‘14) who served as Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA) President in 2014. According to Zimilover, the current Constitution, which was written in 2014 and voted on by the student body the following May, heavily amended the previous version by removing many positions and committees that were seen as unnecessary. After reviewing the archives of The Commentator and The Guide For The Perplexed — the now-discontinued undergraduate student directory — The Commentator has confirmed that the pre-2014 Constitution was ratified in 1995. The authors of the old Constitution are unknown since the Wilf Constitution — unlike the Beren Constitution — does not list its authors.     

Before the 2014 amendments of the Constitution, all the Jewish Studies programs, except the Mazer Yeshiva Program (MYP) — which was represented by SOY (Student Organization of Yeshiva) — had their own councils — like the James Striar School Student Council (JSSSC) — in the student government, previously known as the Student Union. The 2014 Constitution eliminated these councils and consolidated the student governments of MYP, Irving I. Stone Beit Midrash Program (SBMP), Isaac Breuer College (IBC) and the James Striar School of General Jewish Studies (JSS) under SOY. It also changed the name of the Syms Council from Sy Syms School of Business Student Association (SSSBSA) to Syms Student Council (SYMSSC), without eliminating any positions or changing any of the qualifications to serve on the council. 

The 2014 Constitution also dissolved various standing committees, such as the Publicity Committee, Blood Drive Committee, Communal Affairs Committee, Library Committee, Out-of-Town Committee and Shabbos Enhancement Committee. Article VII, Section 3 of the pre-2014 version of the Constitution, which made the Yeshiva University Computer Society (YUCS) the official computer and technology resource of the YU student body, and Section 4, which governed the operations of MorgMart — a now-defunct shop which was located in the Morgenstern Hall lobby — were also repealed in 2014. A mention of The Guide For The Perplexed in Article VIII Section 3, was also removed in 2014. 

While many of these changes were successful, there were many changes that were not completed. The committee that supervised the passing of the 2014 amendments sought to eliminate the Executive Council from student government. However, the Executive Council is mentioned six times in the 2014 constitution. The old Constitution also included a Student Senate, something the 2014 Constitution was supposed to remove, but mention of it remained in Article II Section 10(1) and (2) which explains that a Student Senator may not serve as a member of the General Assembly.  

This brings us to the current 2020 Constitution which includes the various amendments that were passed in Spring 2018. YSU President Zachary Greenberg provided The Commentator with a tentative copy of the updated Constitution.  

Article XIII, Section 2, which stated that the text of the Constitution would remain unedited, and all amendments would be “addenda to the Constitution,” was repealed in the Fall 2018. In the past, a student running for YCSA Secretary/Treasurer had to be “at least a junior” and “a full-time student of the Yeshiva College for at least one semester prior to taking office.” The latest amendments to the Constitution remove these prerequisites, paving the way for any student in Yeshiva College (YC) to run for the position. Under the 2020 Constitution, the president of each council has the power to fill any vacancies that may arise in their respective council. The person appointed to the position must then be confirmed by a majority of the General Assembly. The 2014 Constitution required an election to commence the following fall in the event that a position was left vacant during a spring election; if the position was still unfilled after the fall it would remain vacant for the rest of the year. The latest version also allows students who are part of the Katz School’s undergraduate program to run and vote for the positions of Freshman and Sophomore Representative. Students enrolled in the Makor College Experience Program are also enfranchised for the elections of YSU President and VP of Clubs along with SOY President, Vice President and Public Relations Secretary. 

The 2020 Constitution abolishes the position of YSU Vice President of Class Affairs and shifts the line of succession to the Vice President of Clubs if the YSU President is unable to carry out his duties. Although the Vice President of Class Affairs position was removed from the list of YSU positions in the Constitution, the full description of the role and responsibility of the position — outlined in Article II, Section 4 — remains in place. Greenberg has recently appointed Ami Malek (YC ‘21) as Vice President of Class Affairs, even though the description of the position was removed from the body of the Constitution, since it is still listed as an elected official.      

The aforementioned updates to the Wilf Student Constitution, and the historical analysis provided, will hopefully contextualize and resolve all quandaries from this point forward. However, a big part of resolving any complications regarding the Constitution will be how keen the student council is willing to follow the procedures that the Constitution implements. The General Assembly is obligated under Article XIII, Section 1 to form an Amendments Committee, which under Article XIII Section 2 “shall convene a Constitutional Amendments Convention each semester.” Greenberg told The Commentator that a committee has convened twice this semester to implement the new changes and propose new amendments for this semester. (Note: The author of this article has been invited by Greenberg to partake in the committee.

“The constitution has not been updated in nearly 6 years. I am glad to say that my committee and I are working towards fixing it and getting it up to date,” said Greenberg. “We hope to improve upon it as much as possible and have it accessible for the full student body's use.”

Photo Caption: The Wilf Student Constitution
Photo Credit: The Commentator