By Ellie Parker, Features Editor
I firmly believe that I peaked during my senior year of high school. It was a year of self-exploration, discovery, and, most distinctively, free time. This free time was granted to me, in part, by the lack of stress surrounding my college applications. Why? Because I only applied to one school.
While my peers spent months weighing the pros and cons of each university and pouring over the Common Application, I spent my vast free time at play, a luxury I have never, and probably never will, experience again.
What distinguished my pacificity from my counterparts’ anxiety? Why had I chosen a forkless path rather than survey my options? What made Stern stand out as my one, clear choice?
For as long as I can remember, I knew I’d one day be a Stern graduate. While some may joke that this is no lofty goal, Stern represented much more than just an education to me. In my mind, Stern embodied a sense of community that was unique to a Jewish institution — one in which students could lean on each other in times of shared joy and pain. One that banded together to fortify each other to reach unimaginable heights. One in which each and every individual was acknowledged, respected, and heard.
Though this was the YU of my dreams, it has not been the YU of my reality.
“Community” is a word unheard of on the Beren and Wilf campuses. When used in speeches and shiurim (Jewish lectures), it feels devoid of meaning and out of place. While students are quick to blame the administration for the lack of campus unity, I believe the onus of responsibility falls on the students.
This semester will be my fifth spent at Stern. In my time at YU, I have seen countless, short-lived school spirit attempts initiated by individuals on both campuses. Be it posters plastered on elevators or joint campus Shabbatons, the absence of strength and sponsorship is not from lack of effort. Rather, I believe the stark disparity between students and campuses persists because of our complacency. We have simply accepted the fact that we are members of an oftentimes fractured and dissociative institution. This stagnation has given way to resentment and cynicism.
But we don’t have to remain defeated. All it takes is one collective push. One push to prove that we care about the well-being of each other and our school. And this group effort starts with allowing individuals to be heard. It is my hope as editor to spread awareness and concern through the stories, ideas, and hopes of the broader YU community. I truly believe that the first step to real change and growth comes from an inward appreciation of what we’re doing right. We are a supportive, intelligent, and strong band of individuals, we can shape our reality into anything we want it to be. I was so sure at 18. So sure that my path was straightforward and thought-out. So sure that I would find the community I craved. I’m ready to reaffirm that faith.
Photo: Ellie Parker