The Commentator recently released an article announcing the tentative reopening of the hot tub in the pool area on the Wilf campus. As the creation of women’s hours at the pool is a matter of ongoing campus debate, several female YU students expressed frustration that the issue of the hot tub was resolved before the issue of non-existent women’s hours was dealt with. Women using the YU pool, though, is not only a lost cause, but also antithetical to the philosophy of Yeshiva University.
I fully consider myself a feminist and believe that male and female students should have equal access to university resources and facilities; in the case of the pool though, halacha supersedes this belief as YU prides itself on being a bastion of Torah U’Mada. I remember the first time I sat in the uptown Furman cafeteria, shocked at a fellow Stern student wearing a tank top and leggings. YU, especially the uptown campus, is a Yeshiva, and students should dress accordingly. Inevitably, no matter how many rules would be created regarding how women would need to dress upon entering and exiting the pool area were they granted pool hours, students would break these rules and walk through the Rubin lobby dressed in clothing not following the dress code.
The pool is located inside Rubin Hall, which houses a large number of male students and contains the Furman Dining Hall, which is the Wilf campus’s primary cafeteria. As a result, there is heavy foot traffic through the doors and lobby of Rubin. It would be extremely unfortunate if a RIETS student ran into a Stern student wearing a towel as a skirt on his way to the cafeteria. Halacha aside, as students of a Yeshiva we are responsible for preserving a Yeshiva atmosphere, and we cannot allow this Yeshiva membrane to be permeated by setting up inappropriate situations that could otherwise be avoided.
Furthermore, it is not only dressing appropriately that contributes to the Yeshiva environment of the Wilf and Beren campuses; there are various other ways in which students perpetuate and damage it. For example, I believe it is important that campus publications refrain from publishing sexually explicit content (unless in the case of sexual assault narratives or in the context of health), which unfortunately has not always been the case. Though free speech is of course crucial, so is the Jewish value of modesty, and therefore not everything is appropriate to published in a medium that is representative of YU.
As a feminist, and simply as someone who believes in fairness, it is unfortunate that male and female YU students do not have access the same campus facilities. It is also unfortunate that there is not a pool downtown and that our campuses are not as large as say, a state school’s; if that were the case, a recreational facility separate from the main cafeteria and men’s dorms would prevent this issue. Instead, a solution could be somehow granting women access to another pool, possibly near the Beren campus, so that all students with the desire to swim could do so.
Until then, it is safe to say that it is possible to live campus life to the fullest without having access to a pool. I am grateful that I am able to attend a university that shares my Modern Orthodox values, and if that means sacrificing some of my rights, so be it.