Wilf Student Court Declines to Accept Weinreich’s Case Against Shiner, Shiner Admits to Sharing Message but Denies Wrongdoing

By: Molly Meisels  |  May 6, 2020
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By Molly Meisels

On May 6, the Wilf Campus Student Court declined to accept Doniel Weinreich’s case against Jacob Shiner. Shiner, a member of the Wilf Campus Canvassing Committee, was accused of campaigning against an anti-discrimination amendment up for consideration in May 7’s Wilf Campus elections. 

Weinreich’s claim against Shiner rested on the accusation that the latter had publicly shared a screenshot of an election ballot before it had been made public to the student body on May 7. Weinreich also believed that Shiner was involved in a conflict of interest by urging Wilf students to consider their vote for the anti-discrimination amendment carefully. The anti-discrimination amendment, which is already in the Beren Constitution, would prohibit student government discrimination “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.”

In Shiner’s response to Weinreich’s claims, he admitted to sending the Amendment 6 ballot to the Netiv Aryeh WhatsApp group with the attached message: “This will be one of the amendments students can vote on this Thursday. It would legitimize a path for an lgbt club on campus. Consider this when you vote on Thursday.” 

Shiner asserted that his message was objective and informative. “[T]he message sent by the respondent [Shiner] was objective, not pushing students one way or the other,” his response to Weinreich and the Court said. “Mr. Weinreich charges that the respondent [Shiner] publicly campaigned against an amendment, however he does not provide any proof.” Shiner said that there are no issues with him sharing the screenshot of the ballot before an election as “[t]his is a common practice in elections across the country.” However, in an email thread between Weinreich, Shiner, and the Wilf Student Court, Weinreich stated, “While I readily acknowledge that the text of the amendment was made public in an article in The Commentator, the ballot itself was not made public. The only people who had access to the actual ballot before the election are the members of the Canvassing Committee. As can be seen by the ‘Yea’ and ‘Nay’ checkboxes in the picture, this is not merely the content of the amendment but the exact appearance of the ballot itself.” 

In response to Shiner, Weinreich shared with the YU Observer, “[H]e readily admits that he did share a screenshot of the ballot (which he had proprietary access to) with select information about its implications and the message to ‘Consider this when you vote on Thursday.’ His claim that this was merely a sample ballot shared neutrally to ‘test drive the ballot’ and ‘to ensure its accessibility’ does not hold up to scrutiny. A sample ballot was not shared, and I have never received one in advance of the election in my 4 years on campus.” 

Shiner told the YU Observer that he shared Amendment 6 because the other amendments had clearer outcomes. “The other amendments more clearly state what the outcome is; ‘Amendment 2: Addition Of Katz School Representative,’ clearly adds a Katz Representative. It is not obvious when reading ‘Amendment 6: Anti-Discrimination Policy,’ that the intended outcome is the legalized formation of an LGBT club,” said Shiner. “I was concerned students might cast uninformed ballots, and sought to objectively inform the students body of the significance of Amendment 6.” The anti-discrimination clause does not explicitly state that the intended outcome is a club for LGBTQ+ students.

Weinreich does not believe that Shiner was intending to be objective and informative. “Exactly one select amendment was shared with a message concerning a select one of its implications to one select WhatsApp [g]roup of generally unsympathetic students with an explicit message that it should influence people’s votes. Mr. Shiner got his wish; students took up the cause and made the subtext of his message explicit as they forwarded his screenshot,” shared Weinreich. 

In his evidence, Shiner submitted a screenshot of the responses to his original post in the Netiv Aryeh WhatsApp group. Bryan Lavi, a justice on the Wilf Student Court, responded to Shiner’s message about the associations between Amendment 6 and an LGBTQ+ group with, “How was it passed by the council?” By the council Lavi is referencing the Wilf Campus Amendment Committee, which voted to approve Amendment 6 before putting it before the Wilf student body. Zachary Greenberg, president of the Yeshiva Student Union, also responded to Shiner’s message in the group. “[Please] consider your vote very strongly on this issue,” said Greenberg.

Besides repudiating Weinreich’s conflict of interest claims, Shiner maintained that the Wilf Court has no jurisdiction in the case and that the Court cannot remove him from the Canvassing Committee as it is not a student government position.

Shiner suspects that Weinreich’s case is an attempt to slander his name. “There is zero evidence of any of the claims made by the Petitioner, nor an understanding of what occurred. His petition has wasted the time of the Court and Respondent in a feeble attempt to defame the Respondent,” said Shiner. “Indeed, the YU Observer is publishing an article already that will surely mention Mr. Weinreich’s false claims.” He ended his response to Weinreich and the Court by arguing that Weinreich should be punished for his actions. 

In the Wilf Student Court’s decision to the student body, Chief Justice Phillip Dolitsky said that the Court “declined to hear the case by a majority of 3-2.” Dolitsky did not give further reasoning for the Court’s refusal to hear the case. 

Weinreich commented to the YU Observer about the Court’s decision. “I’m obviously disappointed by the Council’s declination and disagree with it. I presume they are acting without malice based on what they believe to be their jurisdiction under the constitution,” he shared. “ I fear, however, that this decision sets a bad precedent that once in a position of power, students can do as they please with impunity.”

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Photo: Screenshot of texts in Netiv Aryeh WhatsApp group

Photo Source: Shiner’s response to Weinreich

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