By: Myron M. Fenster  | 

From The Commie Archives: (January 1, 1948; Volume 26, Issue 5) — Maybe I’m Wrong: Expressing Student Criticism Purpose Of Undergrad Paper

Editor’s Note: Since its founding, The Commentator has been a paper of free thought and diverse opinion. Below is an editorial from the 26th volume’s managing editor, Myron M. Fenster, discussing the importance of the constructive criticism often expressed in the paper. As we are in the month of Ellul, this piece serves as a reminder that in the quest for self-betterment, one should be constructive and not destructive.   

It becomes poignantly evident with each successive issue that many do not fully understand the scope and purpose of an undergraduate newspaper. The members of this staff who from time to time express their views herein are considered the bearers of only unpleasant, highly-exaggerated tidings with the result that any and all suggestions are usually ignored. This is grossly unfair.

In the past the opinion columns of “Commie” have been, on the whole, of a critical nature. But in all instances these have been offered in a strictly constructive manner, the aim being the improvement of an institution which we all hold dear. At no time has any criticism purposely been given in a derisive manner either to indIviduals or groups. Why some consider a divergence of opinion a sign of disrespect or why they feel personally affronted or insulted when our opinion disagrees with theirs is difficult to understand.  

I would be the first to agree that in the past the Commentator may have been wrong on certain issues. We do not claim to be infallible, perfectionists being requested to turn elsewhere. “Commie” has always stood for forthright uncensored opinion of the student body of Yeshiva College, without waiting years to express that opinion and without waiting to see whether or not it could stand the test of time. In all instances majority opinion is expounded. Whether it be dramatics or pleas for a militant Zionism we feel the will of the student body of Yeshiva College is being expressed. Dissenting student opinion is heartily welcomed. I can truthfully state that I have never barred these pages to any student in this institution. Our sole purpose is to record student opinion.

We do not for one moment contend that our knowledge is equal to that of our teachers and leaders, but to us the students are the most important, the pivotal part of this University. Commentator exists so that these students may have a medium for their expression. Despite the protestations, despite the unbecoming cries of “reformers” and “revolutionaries,” I think that any honest observer will readily admit that through the years this paper has been an instrument for good within these walls.

We are living through a period which sees the squelching of student opinion on all sides, in colleges throughout the country which were formerly noted for their liberality of thought. For that reason, Dr. Belkin is to be highly lauded for never having attempted to usurp our freedom by censoring the content of this paper. This, despite pressure many times from highly influential sources. It may even surprise some to know that the editors fully appreciate the freedom of movement that has been offered to them and have never purposely profaned that freedom.

Unfortunately, no institution can be free of some internal deficiencies. We feel it incumbent upon us to point these out from the students’ viewpoint with hope of their early amelioration. Instead of disregarding all criticism as just so much blasting by well-meaning but politically naive individuals, it would seem worth the administration while to actually look into some of the suggestions to see if they are sound or not. 

What is most important of all, I feel that readers construing our opinions as being directed against the core of Yeshiva are committing a gross injustice to us.

Regrettably enough, a certain Jewish weekly, always prone to play up the dissident forces of Orthodox Judaism, has found these pages fruitful hunting grounds. Perhaps they will also be interested in what is to follow. Despite all the criticism, which is done only in the hope of self-betterment, the students, including the “reformers” and the “revolutionaries,” consider this institution unparalleled as far as erudition and liberality is concerned. They consider it a true symbol of Orthodox Judaism of which we all may feel extremely proud. 

Photo Caption: The Commentator Archives 

Photo Credit: The Commentator