Am I YU?

By: Masha Shollar  |  September 21, 2016
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Apparently, I don’t have enough school spirit. And it’s not just me, but every student on the Beren campus. At least, so I’ve been reliably informed by a member of the administration. The I am YU fundraiser ended just a short while ago, and it seems that Beren students were simply not involved enough.

It wasn’t that women weren’t signing up at all: no, it was that they were signing up to go to the fundraiser on Wilf campus instead. The administrator told me that the main fundraiser had to be there, “because no guys are going to come down to Beren.” The problem is that we have become enmeshed in a vicious cycle here, a chicken and egg problem. The administration won’t hold most major events on the Beren campus because (ostensibly) no men will come downtown. But since no major events are held on Beren campus, there is no reason for men to come downtown. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Sure: technically, there were two fundraisers yesterday. But no impartial observer could declare them equal in any way, though they were definitely separate. There were not two choices offered yesterday, not really. It was a choice like offering someone either a hot fudge sundae or a rotten banana is a choice: sure, there are two things there, but one is so clearly desirable, and the other so clearly an afterthought.

The real kicker came at the end of the conversation, when the administrator had this to tell me: if women wanted to fundraise at the main event, where the action was, they should have signed up for one slot on Wilf, and another on Beren. All this means is that this administrator expects women to do literally double the work for the same result. Shuttle uptown, volunteer, shuttle downtown, volunteer. Only in that way will you be deemed sufficiently topped up with school spirit. When I explained that this seemed like a lot to ask of the Stern students, I was told, “The women need to stop whining and start taking action.”

You can’t slam people for not having school spirit when you don’t give them any information to actualize that school spirit. The simple fact of the matter is that, in this case, Stern students had fewer resources and less information. Given that, is it shocking that fewer women signed up to fundraise? Many Stern students knew only vaguely of the fundraiser, and whether or not student leaders should have been more vocal about it is moot, because at the end of the day, the word student comes before the word leader. It’s not the job of full time college students to also become full time volunteers for the University. If the school wanted more Beren students to get involved, the campaign should have made sure to have an equal presence on Beren, instead of mainly limiting their scope to Wilf.

But women are not surprised that the scope was so focused, because it merely reinforces a message the University telegraphs time and again: that, in the world of YU, Wilf is Cinderella, and Beren is forever the ugly stepsister, jamming her foot into a glass slipper that has been engineered not to fit.

Throughout this entire fundraiser, it was beyond obvious that Wilf was the main event, Beren an afterthought at best, a pro forma check on the list at worst. I’ve been on this campus a long time, and I’ve seen many incidents of sexism. But every time someone chooses to write about it, a nudge, nudge, wink, wink goes around parts of Yeshiva College, because another one of those women is writing about sexism again. Yes, another woman grows angry about institutionalized imbalances: the weighty disparity in resources and access to administration, the men-only spaces, the thoughtless comments and the unfair perception of female students as merely cooling their heels until they find a husband uptown.

The thing that hurt so much this time was that this fundraiser was a great thing, and the desire for student involvement and student investment in the school was wonderful too. It’s just unfortunate that student involvement in this case meant Wilf students, or at least Wilf campus: the women can go up there for the fundraiser, as long as they’re aware that volunteering uptown means they don’t have any school spirit.

I’m tired of caring about my school, when it doesn’t care about me. I’m tired of being proud of my school when it isn’t proud of me. I’m tired of having to shout twice as loud for my voice to sound like more than just a whisper.

This past week, The Observer flooded its social media accounts with posts promoting the fundraiser. And I don’t regret it: five million dollars can do so much good, and help so many students get an education who simply couldn’t afford one otherwise.

But every time I held up a magnet with the slogan or donned a baseball cap, I thought of how often I feel second-class as a Stern student, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether I am truly YU.

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