By Erica Rachel Sultan
While the student body is still getting used to online schooling and quarantine life itself, the Yeshiva University administration has somewhat eased student concerns regarding one of the student body’s most pressing concerns — cafeteria and housing refunds. On April 22, Dean Chaim Nissel and President Ari Berman addressed student-submitted questions on an online conference call that allowed 1,200 students, faculty, and YU family members to listen in. Two of the most prominent questions: will there be any refunds for the Spring 2020 semester? If so, how much?
As the YU Observer’s readers have already recognized in an opinion piece by Mili Chizhik, SCW ‘21, many students have been concerned about the topic of refunds and the financial stress related to their college expenses. On the April 22 call, Berman stated that there will be a 30% refund of the 2020 Spring semester’s housing plan. He also stated that there will be a 100% refund of each individual’s remaining meal plan balance. Berman also noted that the refund will be given through direct deposit or through subtracting the current bill that some students may have at the university.
Mili Chizhik expressed, “I am impressed and grateful that YU is trying to meet us halfway and that they understand that these are difficult times for all of us. For instance, during the conference call, Rabbi Berman said all students will be receiving a proper refund for our individual meal plan balances. However, we are still paying for a part of April’s rent, even though no one was allowed to dorm during April and housing specifically asked students to leave campus early March. Again, I appreciate the refund, but if they are not going to fully refund us from the time that most students moved out (early to mid-March), then they should at least fully refund us for the duration in which no students are allowed to dorm. But I also understand that there are other financial requirements that YU has, such as property taxes and employees’ salaries. I believe there should be a continuation of the discussion with the YU administration to try and compromise further.” Chizhik believes that this is just the beginning of the dialogue between the student body and administration regarding proper refunding and navigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another Stern College student, who has asked to remain anonymous, agreed with Chizhik. “I am thankful that YU is giving us a refund, but I don’t think it’s a completely fair one. Not many students were left in March, and for the students who remained on campus, all were asked to leave but could not due to financial and other reasons. I think that if YU is going through with refunding us, they may as well do it properly. I understand that they have many financial responsibilities, but their most important one should be that their refunds should be appropriately correct,” they shared.
The general student consensus seems to be that while students are grateful that they are being refunded, more compassion and flexibility should be shown in regards to refunds. An anonymous Stern College junior believes that YU is (to a certain degree) taking advantage of its students during a very challenging time. “While I understand that YU doesn’t want to lose money, these times are financially challenging for all of us. I shouldn’t have to pay for 70% of the spring semester housing tuition if I only spent six weeks there,” they shared. “If YU is going to claim that they are storing my stuff for me in the dorms, or that I should pay for a third party lender to store my belongings for the summer, I would gladly come pick my things up if I was allowed to. None of this is an excuse for stealing.”
Berman stated that more information will be available through email by Friday, April 24, at the latest.