By Sarah Casteel
Yesterday, Yeshiva University students received a mass email advertising an event to be hosted on December 10th by the Wurzweiler School of Social Work’s Care Café initiative. The event, titled “Neither He, Nor She, But Me: A Personal Story of Gender Variation,” would feature Hannah Fons, a member of the LGBTQ community and student in Adelphi University’s Master’s in Social Work Program. In her current studies, Fons specifically focuses on LGBTQ issues, and has previously earned a MA in Sexuality and Gender Studies. Her expertise in the personal, academic and professional realms, makes the event appealing to Yeshiva University students and other attendees who are interested in learning more about gender issues.
Scheduled to take place at the Riverside Memorial Chapel, the event would be open to the public and was advertised to Yeshiva University’s undergraduate students. A Facebook event was made to advertise the event featuring Fons’ presentation, which according to the RSVP page would “clarify some important terms, explain what it means to be nonbinary and hopefully illuminate a lived experience that many folks are curious about but lack access to.”
While event information was only emailed to students yesterday, many people are concerned the event may be canceled after a meme was posted today on the YU meme page, “Quality Memes for YU Teens.” The meme features a screenshot of a notification saying the event is canceled, with the text above saying, “Roses are red, some blankets are heated, “‘Event: Neither He Nor She But Me: A Personal Story of Gender Variation’ was deleted.” Any person who clicked “interested” or “going” on the event’s page received a notification when it was deleted, but many people did not notice the notification and only found out from this post. In the comments section, it was reported that an incident occurred last night which reflected negative sentiments about the event.
After further investigation it was discovered that last night, a screenshot of the event email was sent to the “Free Pizza” Whatsapp group, where members of the YU and Washington Heights communities advertise spontaneous free food availability. Along with the unprompted picture was a caption that said, “Learn about the gender spectrum. Get the free experience. Because what does God know when he created only 2 genders? So December 10th let’s all hear how a confused human can’t even figure out it’s own gender and has to make up its own rules that we must play by so it doesn’t cry. Coming soon to a crappy memorial chapel near you.”
In addition to this intolerant and humiliating rhetoric, another inappropriately negative response to the event occurred when a Yeshiva College student responded to yesterday’s email asking the sender, “You’re seriously not ashamed of yourself?”
As part of a university with a history of complications regarding its LGBT community and events on related issues, Wurzweiler was commended by LGBT and other students at Yeshiva University undergraduate schools for hosting this event. “I was ecstatic when I saw the email about the event, and was even a little surprised that we were being told about it via YU emails. I saw it as a huge step toward the school’s acknowledgement of the existence of this community – my community – and am really sad to see the hatred that the email about event has garnered among fellow students and community members. More than that, I am devastated to see that the event has been inexplicably removed from the internet and that there was not even an explanation for why. I am disappointed to see that maybe, I was just too hopeful,” said one anonymous Yeshiva University student.
Often when a Facebook event is canceled, the organizer will post a message about why, or information about it being rescheduled. The event page, in this case, was simply deleted. The event was also deleted from the Wurzweiler Care Cafe’s list of upcoming events on their website.
According to a Facebook post by Fons, the event is going to be rescheduled due to issues with the venue: “UPDATE! My talk for Yeshiva U. on December 10th has been POSTPONED because of a venue issue – DO NOT SHOW UP ON THE 10th! Stay tuned for the new date/place – it’ll be in January or early Feb!”
According to the Riverside Memorial Chapel website, Care Café is scheduled to use the chapel as a venue for a monthly recurring event series called “Don’t Just Survive – Thrive!” After reaching out to multiple sources at Riverside, it has been confirmed that there is still a Wurzweiler Care Café event scheduled for that night, at that time, and that they are not aware of any issues with providing the venue for the event.
As of now, the event with Fons has not been officially canceled by Yeshiva University; it seems clear, however, that they do not intend for it to take place on December 10th. On the other hand, reports that this is because of a venue issue have been debunked by multiple staff of Riverside Memorial Chapel who claim that there is still a Care Café event happening that night and that there is no intention of canceling it to their knowledge.
More updates to be available as the story unfolds.
Update: While YU undergraduate students have not been formally updated on the status of the event, an email was sent specifically to Wurzweiler students tonight, simply notifying them of the event’s cancellation.
According to the email, “The Care Cafe event at Riverside Memorial Chapel on December 10, 2018, with Hannah Fons has been cancelled. We are looking for a different venue for this educational event. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”
The email to alludes to the school’s claim that the event was cancelled because of issues with the venue, as was told to Fons. There is still no indication from the venue, however, that there is a conflict. As the Care Cafe hosts a monthly event at this location, for which the schedule is set in advance, it is surprising that the event would be cancelled at the last minute by the venue especially since they confirmed this afternoon that the event is still scheduled without issue on their end. The school’s claim that they are working on finding another venue is potentially undermined by their claim to Fons that they are looking to reschedule not now or imminently, but rather, next semester in January or February. This fails to address the fact that the event, for an unexplained reason, cannot be held at the Riverside Memorial Chapel, even in the future, and possibly indicates that there is a specific reason that this specific event cannot be held there. Considering that the venue itself did not claim to have an issue with the event, or the scheduling for the 10th, the situation continues to leave a lot of questions unanswered.