Member of Wilf Canvassing Committee Accused of Swaying Election Results, Campaigning Against Anti-Discrimination Amendment

By: Molly Meisels and Fruma Landa  |  May 6, 2020
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By Molly Meisels and Fruma Landa

On May 6, Doniel Weinreich, YC ‘20, brought a claim before the Wilf Student Court against Jacob Shiner, a member of the Wilf Canvassing Committee. Weinreich accused Shiner of sharing a screenshot of the ballot of Amendment 6 — an anti-discrimination amendment that will be put to a vote to the entire Wilf Campus on May 7. Weinreich originally proposed this amendment to the Wilf Campus Amendment Committee. He claims that Shiner shared the screenshot with a message “urging students to vote against Amendment 6” in a WhatsApp group for Netiv Aryeh alumni. An anonymous Wilf student told the YU Observer that the message read, “This will be one of the amendments students can vote on this Thursday. It would legitimize a path for an LGBT club. Consider that when you vote.” 

Shiner commented to the YU Observer about the accusations levied against him. “The complaint filed against me is a misunderstanding. I objectively informed students that [A]mendment 6 would be on the ballot,” Shiner said. “There was no breach of privacy, nor a conflict of interest. Amendment 6 is all the way at the end of the ballot, and I wanted to make sure students knew of its significance before voting on it. The claims that I sent a subjective message, ‘urging students to vote against Amendment 6,’ as claimed by Mr. Weinreich are unequivocally false and unsubstantiated.” 

Tension surrounding the issue of LGBTQ+ students and their requests for a student organization has been present throughout this year’s election cycle. This is due to Amendment 6, which passed the Wilf Campus Amendment Committee, along with the LGBTQ+ advocacy that has persisted on campus throughout the year. Amendment 6 states, “Membership and actions of the WCSG [Wilf Campus Student Government] shall not discriminate based on race; ethnicity; nationality; sexual orientation; gender identity; religious, spiritual, and humanistic belief or lack thereof; age; disability; health status; political affiliation or ideology; or socioeconomic standing.” 

Candidates first began discussing the LGBTQ+ issue at the Wilf Campus presidential debate on May 3. Zachary Greenberg, president of YSU, moderated along with Shiner. The moderators asked the candidates, “An LGBTQ club on campus is clearly a hot topic issue and one of importance to all students, regardless of their position. What is your perspective on the question of supporting the club’s formation at YU?” Candidate for Yeshiva College Student Association, Josh Leichter, supported the formation of a LGBTQ+ club, but the rest of the candidates did not clearly express support in their responses. Ely Bloch, candidate for Sy Syms Student Council, said the issue is “above their [students’] pay-grade” and Noah Kalandar, candidate for the Student Organization of Yeshiva, asserted that LGBTQ+ advocates should not write articles or make noise to get noticed, but sit down for conversations. He claimed that “hands were put out to the people in charge on the other end and it was rejected immediately,” but LGBTQ+ student leaders have repudiated this claim.

According to Weinreich, Shiner sent a message to the Netiv Aryeh WhatsApp group following the debate, urging students to vote against Amendment 6. In his email to Chief Justice of the Wilf Student Court Phillip Dolitsky, Weinreich said, “I charge that Jacob Shiner sharing a screenshot of the ballot before it has been made public was an abuse of his power on the Canvassing Committee. I further charge that his public campaigning against an amendment is a conflict of interest and comprises his ability to objectively tally the votes.” Weinreich cited Article II, Section I (3) to support his claim. In the event that a member of the Canvassing Committee “shall be involved in any other conflict of interest, he shall be required to appoint another student from his school to serve on the Canvassing Committee in his place. Jacob Rosenfeld, the head of the Wilf Canvassing Committee, refused to comment to the YU Observer on the case against Shiner, as he believes this is an issue between Weinreich and Shiner. 

In the days following the debate, other petitions have circulated among Wilf group chats, coaxing students to vote against the proposed amendment. It is unclear if these petitions were sparked by the actions Shiner is accused of. 

One petition read, “In the YU election on Thursday they’re putting the above amendment up for vote. If it gets a majority of people to vote ‘yes’ then it’ll clear a legal path for an LGBT club on campus. If you care about the ‘Y’ part of YU at all it is imperative that you vote ‘no’ for many reasons, but close to the top of that long list is that many roshei yeshiva and rabbanim have either said or implied they will leave YU if such a club exists[…]” 

The petition concluded with a warning: “Even though the language of the proposed amendment seems innocuous, it’s incredibly dangerous for the future of YU and it’s imperative that we get as many people as possible to VOTE ‘NO’ TO THE PROPOSED AMENDMENT. Thank you, and please please share.”

Aside from this, a photo titled, “The Yeshiva Ballot,” spread amongst the Wilf Campus student body. The photo contains the words, “Vote NO for Membership and Actions of WCSG Amendment” and includes a list of “approved” candidates. The individuals on the list did not agree to have themselves endorsed by this ballot and some are upset by their inclusion on the list. The endorsed candidates include: Zachary Greenberg for YSU President, Adam Baron for SYMSSC President, Noah Kalandar for SOY President, and Ari Lowy for YCSA President. 

 

Leichter is disappointed by the actions of his fellow students. “If they have to resort to such extreme measures to prevent or reiterate the same old and outdated tropes time and time again, it becomes increasingly clear that they are simply out of touch or selectively hear from only one portion of the student body,” Leichter shared. “Like I said in the debate, if people choose to lead only one part of the population, they’ll find it very hard to be an effective and inspirational leader and will just continue to advance policies that have grown stale.”

The Wilf Student Court is currently gathering evidence and will decide whether or not they will hear Weinreich’s case.

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Header Photo: The leaked ballot.

Header Photo Source: Sent to the YU Observer by anonymous source.

Yeshiva Ballot Photo Source: Anonymous

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