From the Archives: Commentator Retrospectives
Editor’s Note: Traditionally, at the end of each volume, the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Commentator writes a retrospective piece, usually titled “In Retrospect.” Published here, in the final issue of Vol. 85, are two such pieces that analyze the overall role of The Commentator at Yeshiva University and the necessity of a free press.
Title: From the Archives (May 20, 1935; Volume 1 Issue 5) — Looking Backward
Author: Moses I. Feuerstein and The Commentator Governing Board of 1935
As this issue goes to press, the first term of the life of The Commentator draws to a close. All in all, it has been a short but colorful one as evidenced by the interest and comment that greeted each issue. For in the short period of its existence it has revealed to the student body the possibility of accomplishments which only the most hopeless optimists had dared to seriously consider till now.
The very appearance of The Commentator at the scheduled bi-weekly intervals was already a record breaking phenomenon in the history of the College and student activities. That a tradition so deeply rooted in the atmosphere of Yeshiva could be violated by an immature and struggling young newspaper was merely another omen that even greater surprises were yet in store for the institution. Needless to say, the predictions have long since been realized, as even the most pessimistic will testify.
As the report goes out that this issue will be the last for the semester, the greatest sigh of relief will probably be heaved by the Administration. Theirs has truly been a trying position. To witness after years of rugged individualism in institutional affairs the development in one year of an articulate student body is no very soothing tonic, any college authorities will testify. Especially is this true when a student body has been as meek and complacent for such a period of years as in Yeshiva and Yeshiva College.
The fact that students had many ideas to suggest was always realized by the authorities. But the sudden evolution from rank suggestion to placing the issue in the open where the problem could no longer be evaded, climaxed the fears of the Administration. The old methods of allowing the requests to die from old age or circumlocution suddenly became as out-moded as the horse in the Machine Age. In fact, the solution of the past turned out to be a definite liability in treating with the exigencies of the present, for the more an issue was drowned in verbiage, the more the fundamental points were brought into direct relief.
Calling faculty meetings to cope with this new and insidious force known as The Commentator proved to no avail, for there could be only one solution — facing the problem squarely.
If The Commentator has succeeded in initiating this new and only logical method, its mission has been fulfilled not only to the students but to the Administration as well. The cases of delirium tremens that visited the authorities before each issue as rumors of the forthcoming “fiery” editorials flew thick and fast “will not have been in vain.”
Title: From the Archives (May 18, 1953; Volume 18 Issue 11) — In Retrospect
Author: Irwin Witty
There is an odd sensation that comes with any discovery of change. Many have tried to capture this intangible, almost inarticulate, feeling that overcomes anyone who finds himself jolted from a status quo of any sort. It is an almost lulling effect that the peace and serenity of a position, once secured, brings with it.
The realization that this was to be my last issue as editor of “Commie” came as something of the same nature. It was a job to which I had come to grow accustomed, and one which, with every passing day, became more a part of me. It was not motivated by sheer altruism, but neither was it motivated by self-grandeur. It was, I fear, more of that serenity that unchallenged position generates.
But the jolt has brought me to reflect. I am faced with the task of “passing on the reign.” I hope I am not treading upon the maudlin when I say that it is an odd — I really want to use the word sad — feeling. Granted there is a certain joy to know that now you can “take things easy.” But before that can be done, there is yet another matter to be taken up. I realize that it is my duty to charge the incoming editor with what has been called “Commie tradition.” And I must confess — it is not an easy task.
The Commentator was founded in the firm belief that freedom of the press is an inalienable right of the student. “The People of the Book” inspired that freedom, and with it the implicit feeling that everyone has a right to be heard. But, as is so often the case where one interest group can impose its wishes and decisions upon another by dint of uninspired authority or by intimidation and threat, the fear of reprisal throttles us; and the baser inclination of man, to suppress and to cringe in the face of forthrightness, commits us not alone to silence, but to the effacing of our individuality. To subject oneself to authority in the face of rational and level-headed understanding of our actions, is one thing; to cow-tow and assent without reason is blindness, cowardice and an undermining of man’s own right to free expression.
In the person of a newspaper, these ideas are embodied. It is my belief that these were the conscious, if unexpressed, motivations of the framers of the axiom of a free and independent press. It is my belief, as well, that these ideas motivated those students who first labored over the early pages of “Commie.”
The past year has had its times when these axioms were challenged by the agnostics of freedom. I fear that their campaign may have succeeded long before I could take up my blue pencil. But when the situation arose where we could clearly stand up to reiterate these truths, we were ready and dedicated in fulfilling our task.
I leave to Sheldon Rudoff and his staff a Commentator entering upon its nineteenth year of publication — and simultaneously its third year under an advisorship. The step from Alumni Advisor, to faculty supervision and eventually administration censorship can be spanned in time. We must forever remain vigilant that “advice” be confined to counsel.
Shelley, it is to the continuation of this principle that I ask you to remain dedicated.
Photo Caption: The Commentator archives
Photo Credit: The Commentator