Progressivism Through the Eyes of a Resident Advisor

By: Ellie Parker  |  September 19, 2019

By Ellie Parker, Features Editor

The YU I attend today is proudly very different from the YU I stepped into five semesters ago. 

The YU of today is evolving, growing, and– dare I say it– progressive.

As a Resident Advisor (RA) on the Beren campus, I have tried to make my floor a safe space for my residents for the past two years. Though this objective seems obvious, it is in actuality a complicated task. What does it mean to be a “haven”? How can you make a closet-sized room in a foreign city feel like home? How can you ensure that your residents feel loved, listened to, and secure? These are questions RAs tackle on a daily basis. 

This year at RA training, for the first time in YU history, we had a session entitled “Respecting Differences”, in which we discussed LGBTQ presence on campus. The sheer acknowledgment of these “differences” is an accomplishment. YU has had its fair share of LGBTQ issues in the past, not to mention the university’s recent unease following Deborah Glick’s proposed speech, sponsored by the YU College Democrats. For this reason, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of the housing team’s effort to educate RAs on a more progressive front. 

Though I feel the university has a ways to go in making YU a welcoming place for everyone, it is important to give praise where it’s due. Michelle Demry, the therapist enlisted in educating the RAs on both Beren and Wilf campuses, was a wise choice for the university. A decorated therapist who not only opened the social sciences chapter of NYU, but who played a large role in supporting AIDS patients in the ‘90s, she had the experience and empathy needed to carry out such a historic position. She fielded questions and proposed scenarios that promoted dialogue that was both tolerant and forward-thinking. As someone who understands the background of many Modern Orthodox students, Demry was able to formulate scenarios to address specific halachic cases. Arguably her greatest asset was her ability to remain neutral while discussing such a hot button issue. While some initially regarded this objectivity as detached and flat, in reality we needed an impartial party to teach such a topic. 

We are at a turning point in YU’s history. Never before have LGBTQ students and allies been so outspoken, strong, and proud. We are on a trajectory towards change, initiated and maintained by the powerful voices of our student body. May we as an institution find a way to make our community as safe and respectful as our dorms.