Monday, November 5, 2007

Closing the doors of the tent

UPDATE: I was informed that I might be misunderstanding YU's reasoning behind this move, and iy"H I will be contacting the proper people to clarify what is happening. Until then, I will leave this post up, unedited.

Okay. I am seriously, seriously annoyed.

All because of this.

YU has decided to cut Neve Yerushalayim (and its affiliated programs, I presume, since all the schools use a Neve umbrella transcript) from its Israel program. This means that students who come to Stern College for Women from any of these schools will receive not an ounce of credit for their year of study in Israel, all because YU is retaliating for negative publicity that the schools generate. Because these schools tend to discourage their students from continuing at Stern, YU has decided to award students who do go on to Stern from these schools by not giving them any credit at all.

Why does this matter?

It matters for many reasons. Firstly, students who are considering going to Stern may reconsider their choice of seminary based on this information. Frankly, I think that if there is a compelling enough reason to choose a particular seminary, receiving college credit for that year shouldn't be as much of a factor, but it is certainly convenient to know that you'll come back to the States as a college sophomore (or even a junior, depending on APs or college credit earned in high school) as opposed to starting as a freshman.

But another reason, and one that cuts deeper, is that this elimination of schools that talk anti-YU rhetoric is another way for YU to say, "We're not interested in those of a different hashkafa. If you don't believe in Torah u'Madda precisely, we're not interested in having you in our school."

This attitude frightens me.

I am a junior at Stern. I went to a bais yaakov seminary on the Neve campus for my year in Israel. I received credit for that year (albeit not as much as my counterparts from Michlalah and the like), and so entered Stern as a sophomore.

And oh, the pain that my seminary put me through for choosing to go on to Stern. But I went anyway. And I love it here. I have made some of the best friends of my entire life in this school. I have leadership opportunities here. I am learning Torah here. Was my seminary against my going to Stern? Yes. Did their negativity affect my initial perceptions of college? Yes. Were they wrong? Yes. Was I angry at them? Very. But do I think that such a school deserves not to receive credit from the Israel program? No.

It disturbs me that YU would be so narrow-minded as to reject schools that are of a different hashkafa than their own from the Israel program. YU President Richard Joel often speaks of a "big tent," that YU is an institution where people hashkafically to the right and left of Torah u'Madda should feel comfortable and welcome. In fact, I had a personal conversation with President Joel about this at the end of last semester. I was curious to know how he felt about students who came to YU with the philosophy of Torah u'Parnassa (i.e. coming to YU to get a degree so they can get a good job, not coming to YU because they necessarily want to be poster children for Torah u'Madda). He told me that if such students choose to attend YU, they would prefer that they not flaunt their disagreement of Torah u'Madda, and that they shouldn't say that their derech is better, because in President Joel's view, Torah u'Madda is lechatchilah, and students who openly disregard that, he feels, would not be showing respect to the institution.

I understand that position. But President Joel was referring to individual students who disagree with the Torah u'Madda hashkafah. These types of students don't automatically come from institutions that are anti-YU. In other words, the Israel institutions are not necessarily the only factor to contribute to a student's hashkafah. Assuming that all students from more right-wing schools believe in their institution's anti-YU perspective would be wrong.

And so it is unfair, and narrow-minded, and restrictive to deny Israel credit to schools that do not agree with the YU hashkafah. Because that is assuming that students cannot make hashkafic decisions of their own. And because it is gives these schools an excuse to justify to their students why they shouldn't continue at Stern, even when continuing at Stern could allow them to thrive and contribute and grow in a way that will make them happy.

What happened to the big tent? Why are its doors closing to certain populations?

What is going on here?


Chana said...

Hey Apple,

While I certainly understand your indignant response, I think that you may not have all the facts at your disposal. Having attended the YU meeting and having spoken to President Joel afterwards alongside a girl who informed him that she felt that what was going on (with seminaries and Israel schools) was a "hashkafic witchhunt" I heard his reply.

He explained that it is nothing of the sort. YU is not interested in cutting out seminaries and Israel schools that have a different hashkafa than itself. Rather, it is interested in mantaining a partnership. That's what the S Daniel Israel Program is, a form of partnership. And why would you want to be partners with a school where the overall philosophy of the school (in addition to its teachers) is to inform the students not to come to Stern or YU?

If there are a few scattered teachers here or there who give their own private opinion, so that's one thing. But if the school as a whole has been uncooperative, unhelpful or otherwise obstinate, where's the gain? Why should YU stay in this partnership- and why would the school want to be part of it?

This isn't YU severing ties because seminaries aren't modern enough for them; this is YU ending connections that are uncomfortable, unprofitable and unhelpful for both sides. I think it is completely reasonable on their part. What's reasonable about staying in a business relationship where one party is trying to undermine and backstab the other (as these seminaries/ Israel schools are theoretically doing?) And not just on the hashkafic level; there are more reasons than hashkafa for why a business relationship/ partnership doesn't work out.

I would suggest sending an email to President Joel if you're truly concerned about the state of affairs; I think that your assumption that YU is simply choosing to "deny Israel credit to schools that do not agree with the YU hashkafah" is incorrect and you might be pleasantly surprised by President Joel's answer.

Scraps said...

If I am not mistaken, it may still be possible for those students who wish to attend Stern to receive credit if they, in fact, come to Stern. It would be transfer credit and not be counted towards one's GPA, but I think it may still be possible. As a part of the Israel program, however, one can go to a school in Israel, never attend Stern at all, and still receive credit through the Israel program. I think that may be what they are trying to cut off.

jackie said...

The Commie article on this topic explained four reasons why a school might be cut. Incompatible hashkafa was one. The other three were willingness to communicate with YU, matriculation to YU, and academic rigor.

To me, two of these reasons seem quite valid and two of them make me feel rather uncomfortable.

To axe a school off the program if the school is unwilling to uphold cordial ties with YU is perfectly fair. As Chana said, this is a partnership and both schools should feel interested in maintaining the partnership.

To axe a school where the intensity of the learning is insubstantial also makes sense. YU shouldn't develop a reputation for granting a year of credit to students who do nothing in Israel. Now, some yeshivot cater to less academic students, and they should not be panlized for their level, but in general I think it's nice and valid for YU to remove schools that don't have serious enough schedules.

I can see why YU would like to remove schools with low matriculation rates from the list--whoever is sitting in YU's ooffices processing the transcripts from these schools probably feels like his job is futile because 'they're not going to end up here anyway' or something. I can see how this makes sense. But it makes me uncomfortable all the same, much like the incompatible hashkafa as a reason for removal.

I think that Apple is 100% right that there are many individuals who aught to not be labelled by their yeshiva affiliation. I think that YU underestimates how much Israel Program membership benefits both YU and the member yeshiva. Students who want to go to YU will generally only consider schools on the program. Students who attend yeshivot on the program all feel as though YU is an open door for them. The more schools that are on the program, the more options YU-bound seniors have for their Israel experience, and the more diverse the YU community can expect to be.

One would think that YU would want as large a program as it can handle. I can understand excluding party schools and uncooperative schools, but why not keep everyone else? Diversity is what keeps YU vibrant.

Anonymous said...

You have one significant fact wrong. You should know that if a student comes to Stern from a seminary that is not on the Israel program, it doesn't mean that the student will not recieve credit. What it means is that the student will not receive Stern credit. That student will still recieve transfer credit. Transfer credit is of course not as good as Stern credit, but it certainly is very different than receiving no credit.

the apple said...

Chana - that is indeed very eye-opening. I shall, as you suggested, try to get in touch with President Joel myself.

Scraps - I don't think that's really a goal of this reevaluation, necessarily. You mentioned getting transfer credit - now here's where I'm confused: my seminary credit shows up as transfer credit (no grades - it's all just TR). Do students who come from schools on the Israel program get their grades factored into their GPA or is it just transfer credit?

Jackie - agreed 100%.

Anonymous - same as what I said to Scraps above - it was my impression that grades from seminary do not get factored into one's GPA even if a school is on the Israel program, just that they receive a lot of credit. Am I wrong?

Ezzie said...

I'm going to basically agree with what Jackie said.

the apple said...

Thanks for the link! :)

Erachet said...

Re: your response to Scraps - girls who come from the Israel program have their grades filtered into their GPA. All my grades from Israel are actual letters, not transfer.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

On the gloomy side - The State of Israel still doesn't accept Yeshiva/Stern degrees where credit was obtained from a year studying in yeshiva/sem.

Diet Dr. Pepper said...

There seems to be some confusion about Israel transfer credit and your GPA: your grades from seminary show up on your college transcript, but they do not get averaged into your GPA. (I just got the speech yesterday.)

the apple said...

Jameel - that truly is sad. I've never understood that at all. But what does it mean that they don't accept degrees? Do they consider it as though you never went to college or something?

DDP - thanks for clarifying - I appreciate that.

Scraps said...

It means that they'll consider you qualified to work in a job suited to someone with your degree but they can pay you like you only graduated from high school and have no higher education. This includes any Masters, PhDs, etc, that you earned after graduating from college (since they don't accept the basic degree, they also don't accept any education obtained above and beyond that degree).

the apple said...

That is MESSED UP.

Scraps said...

I know. That's why people are so ticked off about the whole situation.

Yeshiva Bachur said...

It is interesting that on the men's side of YU, they are suffering from a lack of true yeshiva bachurim. What I mean to say is that many guys from the better yeshivos are choosing alternative options such as Ner Israel or Lander because they wish to be in a more yeshiva like environment. So YU instituted the Yeshiva Honors program to counter this. I guess they aren't as concerned with turning their frum institution at stern into another Brandies as much as they are on at RIETS.

the apple said...

YB - I don't think that's so accurate, actually. There are real bochurim who choose to go to YU. Granted, there are boys who go with more "yeshivish" options instead of attending YU, but I don't think that is the majority of boys. Also, by the honors program, are you referring to MYP? Or the secular honors program? Because I don't see how the secular one would really draw more guys who are to the right wing end of things necessarily - the guys who tend to opt out of YU do so because they want to learn fewer secular studies, not increase them.

Yeshiva Bachur said...

I was referring to the yeshiva honors program. I find it interesting that they suddenly create a program designed to be an intense learning program, which they never had before. It is not that YU doesn't have bachuring of very high standards and levels. How many places in America have 400+ learning shtark every day (I am probably wrong about the number and of course this doesn't include the guys taking less intense Judaic classes). Its just that it seems that YU is loosing some of the best guys from Yeshivos of their Hashkafa to other places in America and felt the response to it would be the Yeshiva Honor Program.
There are very shtark guys that go YU and tremendous lamdanim. But many shtark guys don't like the direction that YU is going in despite their not planning on leaving. I could tell you cases of people that were ready to go to YU, but decided to not go because they wanted to be in a more Torah environment.
Another question that I was wondering about with regard to their cutting Neveh (or any other institution), would they accept credits if someone applied not as part of the YU Israel program but rather as a transfer student.

the apple said...

Okay, I see your point about the honors program.

Re Neve - yes, they do accept transfer credit. That's what I got from my year in seminary.

Anonymous said...

The issue with israel not accepting a YU degree only applies to cases of teachers in the israeli public school system, and this is still in the middle of being taken care of and will not be a problem for a majority of YU graduates. there are many graduates in Israel now who are teaching who do get paid as if they have graduated university.