Before We Judge YU, We Need The Facts
The calendar for the 2022-23 academic year was recently released, and with it came uproar. Winter break, instead of being 14 days as it was this year, will only be 11. As my fellow editors and I scrutinized the calendar, we found that the start and end dates for this year are Aug. 25 and May 25, and the start and end dates for next year are Aug. 24 and May 24, indicating that the academic year takes up the exact same number of days. We calculated that each semester included 28 classes for each course, which is the same as this year. We noticed the holiday schedule is a little crazy next year, the most notable being Pesach 2022 takes up 11 days, while Pesach 2023 takes up 13. There. Those are the missing winter break days.
I have found in my years at YU that many students are quick to blame the university when something changes for the worse. I am guilty of this myself sometimes. Perhaps it is something all students tend to feel toward their institutions. This is not to say that YU is innocent in all regards; however, what I find most disappointing is when YU does something to the benefit of their students, we often not only fail to recognize it but even believe it is to our detriment.
This past week it felt like the entire United States was off for Presidents’ Day — except for YU. I asked my aggrieved friends if they would rather have off for Presidents’ Day but have midterms on Ta’anit Esther or Purim. I am grateful to be given off for the chagim every year, and I am sure that most of my peers would say the same. On a day when everyone else gets a day off, we forget that YU carefully plans the calendar around the chagim, even inserting remote instruction days so that we can spend more time at home with our families.
Now, I’m an editor for the news section of The Commentator. I consider it the responsibility of the newspaper, specifically of the news section, to report hard facts to the student body. Unfortunately, there will always be bad news, such as lawsuits, dangerous elevator malfunctions and gender pay gaps. However, I much prefer to write articles about YU’s taking steps to ensure students’ safety, the university’s jumping eight spots in the U.S. News and World Report and its bringing minyanim back to Beren Campus. I love writing about news in which YU is “the good guy,” because feeling positive toward one's university makes for a much happier college experience.
I have often said that I write for news because there is no creativity required — just facts, no opinions. But when I introduced myself to Assistant Dean of Students Sara Asher, she drew my attention to some “creativity” common in Commentator news pieces. Asher told me she thinks it’s great that student-run, independent newspapers exist at YU, but sometimes she questioned if we had to phrase things the way we did. I tried explaining that I write for news, with the goal of being objective and impartial. But of course I know there’s no way to be completely unbiased, even in the news section.
That’s not to say we don’t try. I remember having a long conversation with Editor-in-Chief Sruli Fruchter about the article he was writing on Judge Kotler’s denying the Pride Alliance’s request for a preliminary injunction. The original title was “Court Temporarily Allows YU to Deny LGBTQ Club on Campus,” but we settled on “Judge Denies Plaintiffs’ Request Requiring YU to Allow LGBTQ Club While Discrimination Case Continues in Court.” The difference in these titles is that one suggests YU asked to continue denying the LGBTQ club — which was not the case — and the other implies YU did not initiate this decision.
Interactions with administrators have made me realize that the issue of blaming YU is partly the fault of the newspaper, which may sometimes word things in a way that paints the university in a negative light according to our own biases. Is this my letter to the editor that we have to be better with our titles? I guess so, if you can write a letter to the editor to yourself.
As a news editor, I have information on the best and worst of YU. I’ve had the privilege of talking to deans and gaining a better understanding of the bigger picture and what goes on behind the scenes. There are lots of flaws in every system, and YU is no exception. It’s important for administrators to be upfront with students about why things change, but it’s equally important for students to take advantage of opportunities that can provide them with information. I encourage you to go to open forums, ask questions and read the newspapers before jumping to conclusions, and we promise to try our best to give you the real, hard facts.