By Shoshanah Marcus, Editor in Chief
As I was thinking of an idea for my monthly editorial, I began to look through the YU Observer’s archive. As I scrolled through previous editions of this beloved paper, I was surprised to find that many of the concerns from past YU students are the same as those of students today, including complaints of a lack of diversity, rising cafeteria prices, and even infrastructure issues with the YU buildings.
For me, the thing that initially attracted me to the YU Observer was the paper’s ability to ignite change. Many times, the administration takes students’ thoughts into consideration and, on occasion, even changes policies as a result of students voicing their thoughts in the paper. This became apparent to me when YU attempted to restructure the dining plan and students spoke their mind in the YU Observer to the point where the proposed remodel was actually revoked. The paper instigates conversations not only amongst students, but between the student body and the administration as well. From conversations regarding the LGBTQ+ community to neurodiversity to the definition of frumkeit, it is clear that important issues have been the center of conversations in the student newspapers.
If the same conversations are still going on, it begs the question: has any change really occurred? Does the paper really ignite any change at all? And if not, what is the real purpose of a student newspaper?
One of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my time as Editor in Chief of the Observer was honestly quite unexpected. I was interviewing one of my peers to fill the role of an editor, and at the end of the interview she sighed a breath of relief as if she had been holding her breath for the duration of our conversation. After she accepted my offer as an editor, I jokingly said to her, “See? I told you that the interview wouldn’t be too bad” to which she responded, “No it’s not that.” Seeing my confusion, she continued to explain that she had never felt so instantly accepted or so inspired to use her talents to build a greater community at YU.
Perhaps that is the purpose of the paper: to unite us and to build a community.
I am a strong believer that students should fight for the changes they wish to see, and I think that the student newspapers at YU are the perfect place for that advocacy. Still, though, there is much more to the paper than just that. After beginning this year as mostly strangers, I now consider the YU Observer staff as a sort of family that has far exceeded my expectations. And, as an extension of this team, I consider our staff writers, contributing writers, and readers to be integral parts of the conversations that we hope to spark as a newspaper.
Whether by reading it or working on it behind the scenes, all of the contributors to the paper work to build and strengthen bonds between the students in YU. Although there are many different sub-groups at YU: the in-towners, the out-of-towners, the various different yeshivas and seminaries, we have one thing in common: all of us made the decision to come to YU. Together we make up a part of a larger community that we are inherently members of. As undergraduate students at YU, our similar experiences both in and out of the academic setting essentially bind us together into a larger group. This community is reflected in the various Facebook groups and Whatsapp chats that allows students to stay connected and lean on each other for support.
The function of the papers at YU is not to make one paper “the independent student newspaper of Yeshiva University” but rather to recognize that the YU Observer is “one of two student-run newspapers of Yeshiva University.” By failing to acknowledge the fact that the school has not one, but two student-run newspapers that both consist of YU undergraduates who work incredibly hard to produce top-tier papers, we are missing a huge opportunity to fulfill the true function of student papers: to build a united community.