Acting YSU President Sued by Student Government Peers in Wilf Student Court

By: Molly Meisels  |  January 29, 2020

By Molly Meisels, Editor in Chief

On January 26th, Leib Wiener, president of the Yeshiva College Student Association (YCSA), on behalf of YCSA, the Student Organization of Yeshiva (SOY), and the Sy Syms Student Council (SYMSSC), filed a petition against the Yeshiva Student Union (YSU), particularly Zachary Greenberg, SSSB ‘21, the former YSU VP of Clubs and current acting president of YSU, in the Wilf Student Court. The petitioners have found Greenberg’s presidency, which he assumed at the start of the Spring 2020 semester, illegitimate, and they are calling for his removal. 

At the end of the Fall 2019 semester, Ariel Sacknovitz, SSSB ‘20, president of YSU, announced that he is stepping down from his presidency for the Spring 2020 semester. According to YU’s website, YSU is “the presiding body of student government, representing every student at Yeshiva University…The YSU board members serve as advocates for the entire undergraduate student body.” The importance of YSU as a leading voice in the student-made decisions of the undergraduate student body on the Wilf Campus — not the entirety of YU as the website promotes — makes it an influential body amongst the male student population. 

When Sacknovitz stepped down, the decision about who would succeed him remained ambiguous. On the authority of Amendment 7, Article II, Section II, Subsection 5 of the Wilf Student Constitution, “If the YSU President is permanently unable to perform his duties or is removed from office before or on March 1, the YSU Vice President of Clubs shall succeed to the YSU Presidency…In the event of the aforementioned, the new YSU President shall appoint a YSU Vice President of Clubs within two weeks of assuming office.” Accordingly, Greenberg, the Fall 2019 YSU VP of Clubs, stepped in and assumed the presidency. 

However, Greenberg’s presidency was initially called into question by three other Wilf Campus student government associations – YCSA, SOY, and SYMSSC. At this time, SYMSSC has removed their council from the petition. The January 26th petition brought to the Wilf Student Court claims that Greenberg’s presidency is illegitimate in relation to the laws of the Wilf General Assembly. The General Assembly is comprised of “the Presidents of YSU, YSCSA, SYMSSC, and SOY, as well as the Senior co-chair of the Student Life Committee.” The Assembly, with the president of YSU holding considerable sway, can “impose sanctions upon any student organization for infraction of [the] Constitution…[and] affiliate or disaffiliate with recognized regional, national, or international student organizations,” among other obligations.

The petition brings into question Article 2, Section 10, Subsection 1 of the Wilf Constitution, which prohibits General Assembly members from holding Resident Advisor positions, including YSU presidents. Since Greenberg is an RA, Wiener and company claim he “is ineligible to be YSU President.” Pushing their case further, the petition states that “YSCSA, SOY, and SSYMSC call for immediate emergency elections to choose a new YSU president.” YU Housing usually prohibits RAs from partaking in a variety of extra-curricular activities, including student government presidencies. 

In a ystud to the Wilf student body, Chief Justice Phillip Dolitsky confirmed the Wilf Court’s decision to hear the case of YCSA and SOY [petitioners] v. YSU [respondents]. The Court has decided not to hold a public trial, as is its prerogative according to the Wilf Constitution. They will instead accept briefs from “any person who wishes to bring arguments to the attention of the Court.” Greenberg expressed dissatisfaction with the closed nature of the trial. “I’m upset that the case is a closed trial because I’ve been open about all the issues, and I would like the same from the Court,” he told the YU Observer. Dolitsky has not responded to request for comment at the time of publishing. 

Yoni Broth, president of SOY and co-petitioner of the suit, is fond of Greenberg, but wishes to uphold the Wilf Constitution. “We just want the court to clarify that these are indeed the rules set forth by the constitution and that we can proceed with helping our students in a constitutional way,” he stated. “Zach Greenberg is an amazing member of student council and we would love for Zach to be on Student Council as he brings a lot of excitement and creativity to our planning, not to mention his devotion and ability to step up. We just felt that following the constitution and upholding its legitimacy was important enough to file suit against him.” 

Elimelekh Perl, YC ’22, Greenberg’s legal counsel, commented to the YU Observer about the petitioners’ views on Greenberg and his defense against YCSA, SOY, and SYMSSC: “I can’t divulge any arguments at this time, but I will say that I am deeply saddened by the current state of affairs of the YU Student Government. After Mr. Sacknovitz’s sudden resignation from office, Mr. Greenberg has unselfishly poured his blood, sweat, and tears into continuing to fight for the interests of the Wilf Student Body. Rather than stand together during this time of transition, two of the student councils are wielding the Constitution as a blunt instrument to try and bludgeon the other. As Abraham Lincoln remarked, ‘A house divided cannot stand.’”

Greenberg says that the court case takes attention away from vital matters at hand, such as approving club statuses at the start of this new semester. “Ideally I would love to be legal full-status president at the least in order to effectively get clubs approved,” he said. “…it would take weeks to train a new president and get him comfortable with the system, while I have been doing student council for two years and am confident that I can successfully run the council at this time.” He does acknowledge the constitutional complexities of his position and the reasoning of YCSA, SOY, and SYMSSC, but he hopes that the constitution can be amended to ensure that problems like the ones he is facing do not occur in the future.

During this limbo, Greenberg has appointed Jared Benjamin, YC ’21, as his VP of Clubs, as is his right according to the Wilf Constitution. Benjamin told the YU Observer that Greenberg approached him with the position offer on January 26th. Greenberg and Benjamin spent two summers together at Camp HASC and Benjamin believes that he is qualified for the position because he “juggle[s] leading the ever-popular MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] Club, being pre-med, and conducting clinical research for the Urology Department at Hackensack University Medical Center.” Some students are unhappy with Greenberg’s decision to appoint Benjamin. “After assuming the presidency, Zack just appointed his best friend as VP.  Why is our constitution so corrupt that a Stuco [student council] president can pull a play out of Russia’s book? Nobody voted for the new VP; he was just appointed. He has no qualifications,” shared an anonymous Wilf student council member. 

Photo: Zachary Greenberg

Photo Source: YU Macs

Editor’s Note: Article has been edited due to an update by Greenberg regarding his RA status.