Monday, September 11, 2006

Yeshiva and University Meet

The Commentator has a(n edited?) transcript of a meeting between R. Hershel Schachter and David Srolovitz, the dean of Yeshiva College (link). Very interesting. R. Schachter raised a number of halakhic problems with various courses and Dean Srolovitz indicated a willingness to work with R. Schachter on finding ways to minimize or resolve these issues.

Of course, I side with R. Schachter on all of these matters, although I see how Dean Srolovitz's hands are tied. But, with a little creativity -- which was in evidence at that meeting -- various resolutions are possible. Personally, when I was a student I asked the older guys what courses were problematic and tried to avoid them. I never had to learn Christian works, academic Bible scholarship, or problematic art. Then again, I was a Math major which was more of a Torah u-Farnassah (Torah and earning a living) track.

I remember learning the Canterbury Tales in elementary school, and I don't recall anything problematic in it. But that just might be because I was in elementary school.

Having certain courses that are "rabbinically approved" and others that are not seems like a recipe for disaster. But I think that the problem is all in the presentation and if given nice packaging and inoffensive labeling it could solve a lot of (but not all) problems.

However, while R. Schachter's argument that some of these problems are scaring away students is certainly true, I wonder how current enrollment levels will impact the college's response (link). Will they think that they can afford to lose a few students or will they be so concerned with increasing enrollment that even those lost students' concerns will be addressed? Or is that the cream of the crop they are losing?

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