In a sign of how thorny the debate is over LGBT students at Yeshiva University, just days after school’s College Democrats had its club status revoked by the Student Council, the council reversed its decision and reinstated the club.
The original decision to revoke the club’s status, which allows the group to access university funding, came after the College Democrats organized a march for LGBT students on campus but did not register the event with the Student Council for approval. The decision to revoke the Democrats’ status was widely criticized by students and alumni as well as the College Democrats of New York, representing more than 20 campus clubs, before its reversal last Thursday.
The Yeshiva Student Union and the Stern College for Women Student Council originally said the decision to remove the College Democrats was based on the club’s failure to register the march with the Student Council. Leaders of the College Democrats said the move constituted retaliation against the Orthodox university’s LGBT students and cheered the student council’s reversal.
“I would like to thank all the students who stepped up and voiced their concerns about the decision. They all helped make this possible,” said Courtney Marks, incoming president of the College Democrats and an organizer of the march. “I see this as a huge win and am glad that they changed their minds and are allowing both parties to have a voice on campus.”
Molly Meisels, former president of the YU College Democrats and an organizer of the march, added, “I am glad that the council presidents recognized the importance of the Democrats and the error of their ways. We can now band together to promote further change on YU campuses.”
In an email to the leaders of the YU College Democrats, Student Council leaders said the Democrats’ leaders would need to sign an agreement affirming they would follow Student Council rules going forward. “We look forward to working with you and the YU College Democrats this year,” they wrote.
Immediately after the council’s original decision to revoke the club’s status, students and alumni spoke out against the decision.
“By revoking club status from the College Democrats, healthy political discourse is limited,” Rachel Zakharov, co-president of the YU College Republicans, told The Commentator, YU’s student newspaper.
“This is deeply troubling, both because it stifles free expression and because it is a punitive response to the club’s push for greater LGBTQ+ recognition at the university,” wrote Adam Kugelman, an alumnus of Yeshiva University, in a Facebook post.
According to an email exchange between Meisels and leaders of the Student Council, it was the College Democrats’ failure to request approval for the march in advance, a requirement for all official club events, rather than the reason for the march that triggered the council’s decision to revoke the group’s club status.
“The event itself and the issue that you are raising awareness for — while important — can have no effect on the Student Council’s decisions. We are purely talking to you based on the logistics and principles behind the YU clubs,” Ariel Sacknovitz, president of the Yeshiva Student Union, wrote in an email to Meisels before the march. “A club does not have to right to do anything in both official and unofficial capacities on campus.”
Meisels wrote back the following day, promising that future College Democrats events would “go through club channels.”
Shira Hanau is a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication.