Saturday, November 27, 2010

Censorship at YU

An article, published at the Jewish Star, came out this week about Censorship at Yeshiva University

Students part of a group called Teiqu, an acronym for Torah Exploration of Ideas, Questions and Understandings, invited a controversial Rabbi who runs an egalitarian yeshiva called Machon Hador to speak at YU. The students running the event received an email from YU administrators that the Rabbi would not be allowed to speak on campus.

The email stated, “YU, as a matter of generally accepted policy and tradition, will not have a speaker come to campus who is outside the mainstream of Centrist Orthodox Judaism to discuss any matter relating to halacha or hashkafah."

Qoute from Article about the "Censorship Committee":
"The committee is composed of the upper echelon of Yeshiva University staff: YU President Richard Joel, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future, Victor Schwartz, dean of Students for YU, and Karen Bacon, dean of Stern.
The result of what students have dubbed “censorship” and what administrators called general university policy have set off a heated conversation about the nature of what is and is not allowed in the university that considers itself the heart of Modern Orthodoxy."

Reaction by the left wing segment of YU can be summed up by the following:
“Its very existence demands that the concepts of free speech and open discourse necessary in a ‘university’ will always be forced to bow to the dictate of the ‘yeshiva,’” wrote Stern student Tali Adler in an opinion piece in the Observer.

When I was president of Yeshiva Student Union, YU's central student body government, I had a lot of tough decisions to make. Our student council budget was by far the largest and we basically oversaw all the major clubs and their activities. All the activities were run past the Mashgiach's office. Rav Yosef Blau would guide us by telling us what he thought was appropriate and what was not. The Office of Student Life and the Deans give the students a lot of lee way in deciding what types of events to run, but in the end, they must give their general haskama.

I was approached by a club to run an event where the transgender professor at Stern would lead a panel discussion. After discussing with my board, we quickly shot down this very dangerous idea. The Office of Student Life, although not publicly, agreed very much with my decision, and I am sure would have knocked it down had it gotten that far anyways.

Is there censorship at YU? Absolutely. A makom torah, regardless of the university aspect, should not be trampled upon with all sorts of machshavos zaros under the banner of free speech and the ideology of open mindedness. People shout a lot that Yeshiva University is both a yeshiva AND a university but most forget what comes first in the name!


  1. And you are forgetting that very often in life, acharon acharon chaviv.

    Danny, listen. I understand where you're coming from and the position you're concomitantly taking. That being said, I still feel compelled to disagree. Yeshiva University MAY be first and foremost a yeshiva, but the institution as a whole can only ever be as strong as the some of its individual parts. A university - an institution of higher learning - that rejects free speech is not only a paradox, but it is a reality that does a terrible disservice to its constituents.

    What is more important, pray tell? Possession of truth, or the act of actively seeking it out? I posit the later, for truth, while perhaps objective in isolated form, is subjective in how we relate to it. Thus, truth is necessarily arbitrary. Under that premise, the attempt to seek out truth is far more important and beneficial to our individual and communal well being than it would be to sweep everything under the rug. I hope you realize that the protecting sexual predators is the logical extension of university censorship.

    Your use of the words "trampled" and "machshavos zaros" indicates your clear and unabashed bias. I can respect many opinions, but not ones that call for disenlightenment, especially not in the 21st century.

  2. I don't understand - they had a Reform Rabbi speaking to smicha students, why can't this guy speak to undergrads?

  3. I don't think I need to point out all of the specifics points I disagree with you about, but I'm just curious about what would happen if a Rabbi representing the Agudah wanted to speak on campus about something related to "halacha or hashkafa." Is this boneheaded policy even enforced evenly?