By: Jonathan Levin  | 

State Senator Sends Letter to Inspector General Urging Investigation Into YU’s Use of Dormitory Funding

A New York State senator sent a letter to the New York State Inspector General last week urging an investigation into Yeshiva University to determine if it was eligible for state dormitory bonds it received between 2009 and 2022, given statements it made in its current lawsuit with the YU Pride Alliance.

The letter, dated to March 27 and released to the public Monday, comes from Brad Hoylman-Sigal, who previously sent a letter with two other senators in January requesting the university share an accounting of $230 million of the funding. It was sent since YU never submitted the requested records, Hoylman-Sigal’s office told The Commentator.

The letter requests that the inspector general, Lucy Lang, investigate whether YU misrepresented itself as a non-sectarian institution to the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) to collect millions of dollars in bond loans to finance renovations and construction projects.

According to the letter, DASNY funding is predicated on funds not being used toward “sectarian religious instruction … or in connection with any part of a program of a school or department of divinity for any religious denomination.” Hoylman-Sigal’s letter argues YU has violated those terms by its assertions about its status as a religious corporation and the December court ruling declaring that the university was “violating the law by refusing equal treatment to LGBTQ students.”

“In Yeshiva University v. YU Pride Alliance,” stated the letter, “YU claims it is not required to recognize the YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student club, because it is a ‘religious corporation’ under New York law. This assertion conflicts with past representations by YU to DASNY that it is an ‘independent, coeducational, nonsectarian, non-for-profit institution of higher education’ for purposes of obtaining certain bond offerings.”

“Yeshiva University,” Senator Hoylman-Sigal told The Commentator, “may be discriminating against their LGBTQ students by refusing to recognize the YU Pride Alliance, while simultaneously claiming to be a non-religious institution in applying for hundreds of millions of dollars of state funds. I've asked the New York Inspector General to investigate.”

YU pushed back at Hoylman-Sigal’s letter, telling The Commentator that it “shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the facts and the law,” and that other religious institutions received DASNY funding.

“Religious institutions are not precluded from receiving financing from DASNY,” said Andrew Lauer, YU’s vice president for legal affairs and secretary and general counsel. “That’s why any number of religious universities, including the Jewish Theological Seminary, St. John’s University, Fordham University and Siena College have financed projects via DASNY.”

“In addition,” Lauer continued, “the allegations in the letter are false and offensive. Yeshiva has already established a path forward to continue providing loving and supportive spaces for its LGBTQ students. Well-meaning politicians are kindly asked to learn the facts before attacking Jewish education.”

Eric Baxter, senior council of the Becket Fund and YU’s lead attorney in its case against the YU Pride Alliance, also condemned the letter.

“This is a publicity stunt orchestrated by Plaintiffs’ counsel — and the lobbyists they have retained to execute their agenda — that threatens student funding,” Baxter told The Commentator. “If the government could withhold generally available funds based on religion, students would be barred from using their student aid at any religious universities. The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected that kind of religious discrimination.”

Hoylman-Sigal represents New York State Senate District 47, located on the West Side.

The office of the New York State Inspector General did not respond to an immediate request for comment.


Photo Caption: Brad Hoylman-Sigal sent a letter to the New York State Inspector General last week.

Photo Credit: Kenneth Zirkel / Wikimedia Commons