By Talya Hyman, Managing Editor
On October 25, 2019, an email signed by the seven Yeshiva University student council presidents was sent to the heads of the 125 YU-approved clubs. “Club Heads: Urgent Action Item,” the subject line read, with the email containing a link to the newly-initiated Club Head Agreement Form. “The Student Council Presidents are requesting that every club head submit the below Club Head Agreement by 12pm on Tuesday 10/29/19,” the email said. “The agreement outlines the expectations, rules, and consequences that guide the relationship between clubs and the Student Councils.” The Club Agreement Form was sent out one month following a point of discord between a YU club and the two branches of YU student government.
Aleeza Katz, president of Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC), and Ariel Sacknovitz, president of Yeshiva Student Union (YSU), presented a joint statement to the YU Observer about the decision to institute the new Club Head Agreement requirement. “The Club Head Agreement was created in order to facilitate a continued positive relationship between the student councils and the clubs on campus,” they said. “A fundamental goal of the councils is to work hand-in-hand with the clubs to create meaningful programming that enhances student-life; and we wanted to ensure that all club heads and student council members are on the same page moving forward.”
The form led the club heads through the “Student Council Expectations, Rules and Consequences,” a list of 11 statements which the club heads were to read through and check off in agreement. Some of the included items stated, “Student Councils expect to work with clubs to create programming for undergraduate students at Yeshiva University under the guidance of the Office of Student Life; Student Councils expect that clubs will comply with Student Council Rules; Any event (whether official or unofficial, on campus or off campus) that is hosted by, funded by or affiliated with a YU student council associated club, must be approved by the appropriate student councils and by the Office of Student Life; Failure to adhere to Student Council rules and requirements can be grounds for loss of Student Council funding and/or loss of club status.” A space for club heads to record the date and electronically sign their name was included at the bottom of the form.
Club heads offered their own views towards the Agreement Form. “To be honest, I don’t know why they sent it,” Menuchah Schuman, head of the College EDge Club, said. “Maybe they just want it as some sort of contract.”
“I connected the email about the Agreement Form to what happened with the Democrats,” Yakira Escott, head of the Nutrition Club, said, in reference to an event about one month ago that saw tension between the YU student governments and the YU College Democrats. “I assumed that they sent it in an attempt to be more on top of the clubs and to make sure that they uphold the image of YU.”
On September 23, 2019, the YU Commentator reported that SCWSC and YSU had denied club renewal to the YU College Democrats for the 2019-2020 academic year. “The decision to reject the club this semester was made on the heels of last week’s LGBTQ march on the Wilf Campus, which was organized by the YU College Democrats in an unofficial capacity,” the article explained.
The decision raised controversy within the Yeshiva University community and beyond. Comments in both support and condemnation of the club rejection appeared on social media and on the original news article page. “This decision is outrageous…universities should support freedom of expression. Not try to stifle and censor it. So depressing that student leaders are going along with this repressive nonsense…,” one commenter wrote after a student shared the post on her personal Facebook page. Of the opposing view, a commenter wrote, “Kudos to the young people in student government who chose to do the right thing…I hope they (and the administration) will continue to stand up to the bullying and retaliation that is surely coming their way.”
Three days later, on September 26, the YU Commentator reported an update. The council presidents had reevaluated their decision, the article announced, and the College Democrats would be approved and reinstated as a fully-sanctioned YU club.
“To avoid any complications moving forward, the YU Student Government will be asking all YU affiliated club heads to affirm that in order to run an event — in an official or unofficial capacity — they need the approval of the YU Student Government,” the student government presidents said in a statement released that same day. “Failure to adhere to Student Government standards will lead to the loss of club status as a YU affiliated club…We look forward to working with all of our clubs and students this year, including the YU College Democrats, to maintain our diverse representation on campus.”