By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Speaker Pulls Out of Event Due to Yeshiva University’s Stance Towards YU Pride Alliance

A speaker scheduled to speak at a Yeshiva University honors event Monday pulled out following YU’s freeze of club activities to avoid giving an impression that she endorsed YU’s stance towards the YU Pride Alliance.

“I canceled,” Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, health commissioner of the city of Philadelphia, told The Commentator, “because I was concerned that my speaking on campus could be taken as an endorsement of Yeshiva University’s refusal to recognize the human right of LGBTQ students to assemble and form a peer support group.”

Bettigole was originally going to speak about her career and contemporary health issues to Stern College for Women (SCW) honors students in the Koch Auditorium, located on Beren Campus, before pulling out in protest of YU’s freeze of club activities shortly after it was announced on Sept. 16. Honors students were notified about Bettigole’s decision Saturday and were told that the university secured a different speaker, Dr. Esther Rollhaus (SCW ‘10).

“Dr. Cheryl Bettigole … will not be joining us,” stated an email sent to honors students, “out of a concern that her visit could be taken as an endorsement of the university's position on Pride Alliance.”

Yeshiva University froze club activities on Sept. 16, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court denied YU’s request for a stay on a June order directing the university to recognize the LGBTQ club. The club freeze, which also froze student council activities, ended on Oct. 20, following an agreement for a stay between the Alliance and the university.

Bettigole was appointed as health commissioner of the city of Philadelphia in November 2021 and oversees the city’s department of health, managing the city’s healthcare system and responding to public health threats.

Bettigole told The Commentator that while she felt bad that she couldn’t speak to SCW students, she felt, that as a city official, she needed to pull out. 

“I am very sorry to have to let down the students at Yeshiva University with whom I was scheduled to speak,” Bettigole said. “But as the Health Commissioner for Philadelphia, I am responsible for protecting the health of all Philadelphians and would never want to do something that could undermine the confidence of a group in my commitment to their human rights.”

Yeshiva University declined to respond to The Commentator’s request for comment.

Students enrolled in the S. Daniel Abraham honors program at SCW are required to attend five out of eight honor-students-only events, among other academic requirements. Honor program requirements vary at Yeshiva University’s other undergraduate honor programs, the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program at Yeshiva College and the Business Honors and Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at the Sy Syms School of Business.

Rollhaus, a psychiatrist who the university secured as a speaker after Bettigole pulled out, spoke about her time at SCW and gave career advice to a crowd of around 60 students.

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Photo Caption: Philadelphia City Hall as viewed from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Dr. Bettigole is health commissioner of the city.

Photo Credit: Charl Folscher - Unsplash