By: Commentator Staff  | 

From the Archives: Commentator Suspends Publication After Threat of Censorship

Editor’s Note: The following collection of articles detail the suspension of The Commentator after it was threatened with censorship by the university administration over its coverage of minyan attendance. This threat followed previous run-ins — including a ban on the traditional Purim issue of The Commentator — in 1958 between The Commentator and members of the administration particularly Dr. Simeon Gutterman, dean of Yeshiva College, and Rabbi Moshe Tendler, assistant dean of Yeshiva College. Unlike 1958, The Commentator is currently not funded by the student government and thus is not subject to censorship by the university. 

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Title: From the Archives (March 24, 1958; Volume 23 Issue 11) — Ten Students Are Suspended From Dormitory

Author: Commentator Staff 

Ten New York City residents have been suspended from the dormitory for one week because of “unsatisfactory” minyan attendance. Thirty other students, most of them from out of town, received “suspended suspensions.” This means they will be evicted if their minyan attendance continues to be “unsatisfactory.”

The suspensions were issued by Rabbi Moshe Klein, dormitory supervisor. He explained that attending minyan two times a week would be considered satisfactory by his office. 

When the suspensions were first announced, student leaders proposed that the students involved, instead of being suspended, be compelled to attend seminars on the importance of t’fila b’tsibur

The proposal was rejected by the administration. However, a seminar is being organized on a voluntary basis to discuss t’fila

The Assistant Dean, Rabbi Klein’s immediate superior, told The Commentator he was in accord with the suspension policy. He felt that the religious guidance program this year had been “adequate.” 

Student leaders pointed out that the suspensions were in direct violation of Residence Hall Regulation VIII in the handbook issued by the administration. This regulation states, “Repeated failure to attend services renders the student liable to disciplinary action by the student court.” The supervisor’s office, student leaders said, had ignored the court completely in this matter. 

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Title: From the Archives (March 24, 1958; Volume 23 Issue 11) — An Editorial: Compulsion

Author: Abraham Shapiro and The Commentator Governing Board of 1957-8

Recently, we have had the occasion to witness the lack of direction of the administration’s dormitory policy in a clear light. On Sunday, March 9, about 40 dormitory students were notified to see Rabbi Klein before 4 p.m. Tuesday concerning their imminent suspension from the dormitory. Unsatisfactory minyan attendance was the cause of this suspension, which was to last for one week. 

No warning whatsoever preceded the notification, unless one feels that a mimeographed circular, distributed at the beginning of the term, stating that residence in the dormitory is dependent on satisfactory minyan attendance is, sufficient. It must be kept in mind, however, that such circulars have been regularly distributed throughout dormitory history, and since their terms had never been carried out, students had become accustomed to disregarding them. When students about to be evicted pointed out to the dorm administration that they had not been adequately warned, the answer they got was “we did not want to make this seem like a threat.” Why the administration should be so afraid of verbally warning students after they had already threatened them in mimeographed circulars, which they knew would be disregarded, escapes us. Furthermore, since the one-week suspension simply puts residents on notice that further delinquency of attendance will be followed by permanent eviction, it is as threatening as any verbal warning could have been. 

We must also keep in mind that by taking eviction into its own hands the administration has violated an agreement it signed with the Student Resident Court at the beginning of the year giving the Court jurisdiction to decide on suspension of residents. Even if we postulate the premise that the administration occasionally acts upon, that a signed agreement is adhered to only as it suits them, the student should not be told at the time of his suspension that the agreement was abrogated. 

Friday, March 14, a small announcement was put on the dorm bulletin board. It read simply: “Any student wishing to participate in a seminar to discuss minyan and Tfila B’tzibur will please notify Rabbi Klein as soon as possible.” This announcement followed an action on his part which pleasantly surprised us. Out of the 40 who got notices, only 10 were actually evicted, the rest receiving “suspended suspensions” upon presenting him with at least a plausible excuse for their absence from minyan. Of course, if their attendance does not pick up within the next two weeks, they will also be served with an eviction notice. 

The administration’s contradictory actions cannot but lead one to wonder. Why couldn’t the seminar on minyan have been announced previous to the suspension? Doesn’t the administration want the suspended residents to know about it? Or is it just another belated, half-hearted attempt at a desperately needed religious guidance program? These questions are now added to the ones we have been asking for years: Does the administration seriously think that a staff of resident assistants just out of college (in fact, some of them are still undergraduates) with no professional training in guidance can assist the troubled resident in the solution of religious problems? What are the aims of religious education — to see that the student is forced to go to minyan in his short college stay, and then, with the compulsion removed, never go again? Might it not be much more beneficial if, instead of outward compulsion, professional religious guidance brought about minyan attendance from inner feeling?

We do not claim that religious guidance will solve the minyan problem entirely. Minyan has been a thorn in the side of the dormitory authorities as far back as anyone remembers, and their continued failure to solve this problem is basically due to their treating it as a separate one. When will the administration realize that minyan is only a symptom of a larger problem: the fact that synthesis, as found in Yeshiva University, is synthetic. The student cuts corners wherever he can, simply because it is physically impossible for him to do good work in both departments [religious and secular] and still maintain his balance. The administration itself has defined satisfactory minyan attendance as twice a week, a substantial concession to the thesis that regular attendance will produce students who attend classes in a lethargic, half-asleep half-awake, state. 

We urge the administration to go one step further, and to realize attendance requirements must depend on the status of the individual. Some students may very well be able to go more than twice a week, and some may not be able to go even that much. We are confident that an individual approach towards the minyan problem will go far towards making the administration realize that maybe it isn’t the problem after all. In fact, an individual approach towards all the problems of the university is the only way we can envisage to resynthesize synthesis. Let the individual student opinions be heard! Let his presence be felt! Let him realize that he is not just another cog in the university machine! Rather, let the university make the student feel that it is aware of his problems, and is not interested only in presenting a facade of meaningless regulations to the outside world. 

The university exists for its students, not vice versa. 

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A memorandum sent from Dr. Simeon Guterman to then-YU President Samuel Belkin notifying him of the potential censorship of The Commentator. Photo Credit : The Commentator 

Title: From the Archives (April 2, 1958; Volume 23 Issue 12) — An Editorial: Governing Board Suspends Publication

Author: Abraham Shapiro and The Commentator Governing Board of 1957-8

The right of The Commentator to print articles, news stories and editorials on any problems which are not limited to the college has been denied by Dr. Simeon L. Guterman, dean of Yeshiva College and concurred in by Dr. Samuel Belkin, president of the university. A memorandum to this effect printed on page two of this issue specifically denies the right of this newspaper to mention a university problem which has caused much comment and many letters to the editor. 

The Governing Board has voted unanimously to suspend publication of The Commentator under this ruling. If the ruling is not rescinded there will be no Commentator. 

It is the feeling of the Governing Board that The Commentator is more than just a newspaper put out by a few individuals to print only college affairs. Rather, The Commentator, the only student newspaper in the University above the high school level, represents the student body of the University. College students attend R.I.E.T.S., T.I., or J.S.P. and also live in the dormitory. The board is obligated to print editorials reflecting the viewpoint of student government and also to print the opposing viewpoints expressed by students. 

This is the responsibility of our newspaper; it cannot be questioned, nor will we evade it. 

Photo Caption: The Commentator archives
Photo Credit: The Commentator