It’s Not Me, It’s YU (How the Foundation of YU is Crumbling)

By: Erica Rachel Sultan  |  May 12, 2020
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By Erica Sultan, Staff Writer

Deciding to attend YU was an extremely difficult decision for me. Not only did I need to decide where and how I would spend the next four years of my life, but I also had to decide to jump into a whole new world: Modern Orthodoxy.  My journey at YU, a Modern Orthodox institution, has been one of the most stressful endeavors of my life. 

Growing up as the only Jewish student in my 2,500-student-filled school was an interesting experience. I craved to belong to a community where its members didn’t eat pork, didn’t mix their meat and cheeses, and studied Jewish values and religion. When I decided to attend YU, I was excited to be a part of a Jewish community where kindness was one of the most valued traits. 

While I have met some of the kindest people at YU, including professors, security guards, and some of the administration, the struggle that I and many other students have, stems from the disorganization and the disrespect from the YU administration. 

There are many components to the upkeep of a university: its students, its faculty, its finances, its alumni, etc. But the entity which solidifies a university is its administration. The deans, academic advisement, financial aid office, student accounts, counseling centers, and offices of student life — these are the bodies which are the foundation of an institution. But what happens when this foundation is cracked? The wellbeing of the students, their finances, and their academics is put at risk. For example, one academic advisor told me that I needed to take another required class, just for another academic advisor to later tell me that I had already fulfilled the requirement and that the history class, which I struggled through, would be considered an elective. 

Every student was affected when the administration decided to change our meal plan without properly communicating the new system to us. Although once it was effectively reversed, many students were left with only a couple hundred dollars for two months left of the semester. Another example of YU’s disorganization is when a friend of mine had to change doctors after finally becoming comfortable with the one at the Counseling Center, all because students are only allowed twelve sessions for all of their four years. The disorganization of the administration is only a fraction of the cracks in the foundation of YU. 

What mostly dismantles YU’s administration is how disrespectful they can be. For example, a 30-minute conference call with student accounts left me astonished at their inhumane attitude towards students. The conversation was in regards to an owed bill on my part. The employee I was speaking with explained that she had all of my and my father’s financial information in front of her, and the conversation led her to say, “Most students at YU have both parents helping financially. Why can’t your mother take out a loan for you? Where is she in all of this?” 

First of all, if she truly was reading over mine and my father’s financial information, she would have noticed that my father is a widow. Being very upset at her comment already, and the fact that she had fibbed, I angrily explained, “My mother is dead.” And then, to my astonishment, the employee’s next words were, “It’s unfortunate that your mom is not here to take out loans for you. If she was, we’d be able to offer her a loan, but obviously we can’t.” I was shocked into utter silence. 

When I told my friends of this incident, they shared their stories with me. One of my friends, a Stern student, explained that when applying to YU and asking about a possible need-based scholarship, one financial aid employee said, “What? You think college is free?” Two other friends of mine in Stern both agreed that some employees of financial aid give them attitude and comments such as, “Well, you should have figured this all out before you came to this school,” rather than productively responding to their questions. 

It is very easy for students to fall between these cracks found in YU’s foundation. But let me explain something: Although I’ve only learned Judaic studies for two years, I know that if you proclaim to be a Jewish institution, then you must uphold Jewish values in all aspects and in all departments. For if you act disrespectfully, it is a chillul Hashem [an affront to God]. My hope is that these cracks can be filled with the simplest Jewish value: kindness. 

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