Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Solving All Of Yeshiva College's Problems In One Fell Swoop

I'll admit that the title of this post is more than a little ambitious. Instead of attempting the impossible, let's discuss an editorial by Zev Eleff -- "Someone Stop Them, Please!" in the most recent issue of The Commentator (link) -- about the difficulties of Yeshiva College's recruiting goals. On the one hand, the school wants to grow. On the other, it seems -- according to this editorial -- to be growing through less religious and less academically capable students. As discussed in the past in the student newspaper, there is a growing group of students who fail to even wear yarmulkes on campus (outside of class).

The comments that follow are those of an inexperienced, ill-informed backseat driver and should be taken as such. Please just consider these ideas of someone who cares that are being tossed out for discussion.

Click here to read more1. I'm told by professors at city colleges that their schools require remedial classes in many basic subjects for students who are not prepared for college level courses. I believe that these courses are required for students who are placed in them but not credit-granting. Maybe YC should think about instituting such courses as well. Those who are unable to successfully complete these courses should be advised to find another, more appropriate school.

2. Regarding the issue of religious observance on campus, I think that in theory this can and should be solved by instituting certain basic required behaviors at YC. These include wearing a yarmulke, attending minyan and observing Shabbos while on campus. This may already be the policy; I don't know. If it is, perhaps it should be publicized better. In practice, though, the issue of enforcement is extremely difficult. I have no idea how this can be enforced without turning the yeshiva's faculty into religious police, which is to no one's benefit. But at least establishing such a formal policy (if it does not already exist) and making it well known is a start.

3. It seems to me, at least from where I am sitting, that YC should be recruiting from the right as well as from the left. There is a whole group of right-wing/black-hat high school students who could grow tremendously from the YC/RIETS experience as well as contribute to YC/RIETS's growth. With the shift to the right in the black-hat world (I know, it's a bad term because there are plenty of black hats in YU, but you know what I mean), there are many students who value a college education but are essentially forced to choose between a top notch college education and a top notch yeshiva education. Some manage to achieve both but a growing number do not. The recruitment effort needs to address these students' specific concerns, emphasize the unique positives of YC/RIETS, debunk the many lies told about it, and still be honest about the challenges the school poses. YC might even consider some changes to accommodate the needs of these students (e.g., see here at the bottom). I am convinced that with the right recruitment campaign, the trickle of serious students from right-wing high schools that I saw when I was a student (admittedly not that recently) can be turned into a flow. The right-wing community is changing and YU is in a position to benefit greatly from it, if it tries.

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