To the Editor,
During my time at YU, I was completely embarrassed by the lack of political awareness among our student body. As an alumna, I am observing from the sidelines as the post-elections political discourse unravels. Hindsight has allowed me to realize how wrong I was for wishing to engage in political conversations at Yeshiva University. Politics was (and I assume is) not casual Caf talk because students at YU do not know how to express political opinions in a mature and intellectually open manner.
Every 4 years the politically ignorant become political science scholars overnight. As I watched this metamorphosis happen I noticed that the language used was not educational, thought provoking, or productive. Rather, it was the antithesis of the Jewish values we embody and the academic stimulation we expect to gain at a top tier college. It was not the exchanges I yearned to have with my peers, but the unsubstantiated conversations that I rolled my eyes at.
After reading (and wholeheartedly relating) to Neta’s article discussing the challenges of being a liberal female on YU’s predominantly conservative campus I was saddened that the political climate at YU has not changed. Yet, I was hopeful that students were beginning to call attention to the greater issue: the need for a safe space of mutual respect for all opinions on the political spectrum. But after reading Mindy’s article and the hurtful comments that flooded after it I am ashamed. I am so ashamed. Political issues are, in their very nature, contentious. In a mature and open setting, debating policies, listening to others’ ideas, learning about the counterarguments is how politics is approached. Unfortunately, the insular political culture at YU ignores the need for this political pedagogy.
Yeshiva University has never had a safe venue for political expression. YU students typically hang around like-minded YU students. The lack of political diversity silences the minority of students who do not conform to the conservative norm. Additionally, it suppresses any chance for students to engage in politically correct and respectful conversations.
I understand that inviting Ben Shapiro was an attempt to foster political dialog on campus. However, before YU invites controversial figures we ought to think of the reaction the students will have and the ramifications of those reactions. It is worth having a conversation about how to introduce political content to our students, before we throw them the dog bone of Ben Shapiro. We cannot and should not promote political discourse if our students are not equipped with the ability to discuss politics like a “mensch.”
Alumna on the sidelines