Paying the Price: Crushing Club Costs at YU

By: Emily Goldberg  |  April 17, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor

If you have attended any shiur on Yeshiva University’s Beren campus, you should probably be aware of how expensive it was to set up the chair you sat on. 

At Yeshiva University, the cost to set up chairs for programming, or even to rent rooms for events, is astronomically high, and many are still searching for answers as to why. Members of the Torah Activities Committee (TAC) Board and club leaders have become increasingly frustrated with these costs that tend to take up large portions of their budgets. 

The YU Observer obtained a document outlining such fees. To rent any of the resident lounges on either the Wilf or Beren campuses, spaces in Yeshiva University owned buildings, costs $500. To set up the Beren Campus Beit Midrash for a shiur, almost always done with the chairs that are already in the room, it costs TAC $600 every time. TAC holds shiurim on the Beren campus practically every weeknight. Setting up Kotch Auditorium for a chagiga costs TAC $1,600. 

Additionally, in a correspondence with the YU Observer, The Office of Torah and Spiritual Life on the Beren campus stated that “Shabbos set up costs [them] approximately $750 per meal per Shabbos… When we have a minyan in Koch – it costs $1215.” 

Randy Apfelbaum, Chief Facilities & Administrative Officer, explained to the YU Observer that “the rates are based on expected setup costs, cleaning and return of the spaces to their normal layouts.” He continued, “These costs go to pay our union cleaning staff. If the event requires overtime then those charges are added since we need to pay the employees.” Moreover, “If an event requires rental of furniture or AV equipment, then that cost would be added on a case by case basis.” 

When the YU Observer followed up with facilities after this correspondence asking for further clarity about the specifics of how the costs are determined, they stated that they had nothing further to add. 

Gaby Rahmanfar (SCW ‘24), TAC President, has expressed immense frustration over these exorbitant costs. “If you look at these prices they’re so absurd and nonsensical,” Gaby told the YU Observer. “To have a school function or event in a building that is completely owned by YU, we have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to use the space. That makes zero sense,” said Gaby. “Room fees are a huge waste of our budgets.”  

Gaby revealed additional inconsistencies with the prices. “If you look at [the pricing document], none of the [batei midrash] they have uptown are listed but for us there’s a fee for the beis.” Gaby added, “To book Shenk shul [on the Wilf campus] is $190, a literal shul, but to book our beis in 245 [Lexington Avenue] it’s $600.” 

Gaby further illuminated just how much these fees can quickly eat up a club’s budget. “For example, if a mechina representative who has a budget of 1.5k wants to book a lounge for a mechina event it costs $500 (a third of her budget!) just to book the space,” said Gaby. “Even if you don’t want anything [such as chairs and tables] set up you still have to pay ridiculous amounts of money just to use the space [itself],” reiterated Gaby. “Custodians are working around the clock in the building anyways so why is the school charging their own students to use the space for school activities?” 

It turns out that Gaby’s example is not just a theoretical case, but actually happened to Sara Lesczynski (SCW ‘25), Mechina Representative for TAC, who manages the Mechina budget. Earlier in the year, Sara wanted to run a bracelet making and hot cocoa event, and when asked by OSL where the event would take place, she told them it would be in the 36th dorm building lounge. “I thought it was just a formality,” Sara told the YU Observer.    

“Not only did we not know that we were officially signing up for it, but we didn’t know that we were gonna pay for it. We were not told about that at all,” Sara reiterated. However, because of a conflict, Sara had to reschedule the event for the next night, after the lounge had already been set up. She told facilities that she did not need the lounge set up a second time, and that she would use the furniture that is already in the lounge for her event the next evening. Facilities set up the lounge anyways. 

“It was $500 for each night that we were charged,” said Sara. “We had about $1200 in the budget and [this incident took up about] $1000,” Sara emphasized. “We should have been warned.” 

Now, if Sara wants to pay for Mechina programming, she has to go through The Office of Student Life first. Sara is very thankful that the Office of Student Life is willing to help, however, her current situation is not ideal. “It’s still not our budget. We have to go through many more steps in order to [run programming] now.” 

Yeshiva University is an institution which prides itself on its Torah opportunities and extracurricular events for students. One of the many reasons why students decide to come to YU is because of the embedded learning opportunities, the multitude of Torah and holiday programming, and the vast options to get involved with a wide range of clubs. Therefore, as a proud YU student, it is surprising and shocking to learn about the hardships students have been facing to try and run such events.  

For Gaby, the fact that there is such a large cost for these types of things at Yeshiva University is confusing. “It feels like the school is charging arbitrary fees and making it more difficult for students to hold events,” exclaimed Gaby. “Student run events enrich our experience and are one of YU’s biggest points of pride, so why are they making it difficult for students to actually run said events?”

As students of Yeshiva University, these discoveries should be extremely concerning. The fact that YU charges astronomical amounts of money for student leaders to rent spaces in YU owned buildings is extremely disheartening. YU should not be making student lives harder by charging fees that student clubs and organizations cannot afford to pay with the budgets YU provides them with in the first place. YU should keep to its word when it says that “one of the foundations of Yeshiva University is the importance of enriching and enhancing Jewish life and growth both on our campuses and in the Jewish community at large.” 

Of all the challenges that students at Yeshiva University face, the ability to foster Torah programming should not be one of them.