Oh, the YUmanity!
March 18, 2006 10:26 AM   Subscribe

When tradition and modernity clash. "While Yeshiva University is officially a nonsectarian institution except for its Orthodox rabbinical school, it is the oldest and largest American university under Jewish auspices. Although commonly thought of as an Orthodox institution, Yeshiva University has been chartered since 1969 as nonsectarian, enabling it to receive state and federal funding." Which is all fine and dandy, except that YU has a history of confrontation with its gay and lesbian students. There was major opposition to the funding of gay and lesbian student organizations. Gay couples sued Yeshiva over apparent housing discrimination. And now, a gay medical student claims he was expelled because of his sexual orientation, and he has a memo that he claims proves his case. Oy.
posted by greatgefilte (12 comments total)
Ah yes. I read about this yesterday. The med school is being sued -- and rightly so. It's time to find out if you can do anything and everything in the name of religious freedom. You have an excellent student expelled because he was gay.

I think that memo just lost the case for the Yeshiva. Good. It's a shande. ;)
posted by bim at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2006

Which is all fine and dandy, except that YU has a history of confrontation with its gay and lesbian students.

Yeah well, so does the federal government, so I wouldn't hold your breath for intervention on this front. Not that that makes it right, of course, but as to these kinds of questions:

It's time to find out if you can do anything and everything in the name of religious freedom.

The answer's probably going to be "yes" for a while, as long as "anything and everything" is code for "be homophobic." For one thing, Dale v. Boy Scouts may be right on point here; if the implied right to association lets you kick out gays, then the express right to freedom of religion probably does too. Apparently they're suing under the Fair Housing Act, which would have to yield to Constitutional concerns over religious freedom.

Frankly this is a much better test case on the issue than the various landlords across the country who argue that they're bein' repressed because they have to rent to gays. Unfortunately I'm more than a bit scared of how it may come out.
posted by rkent at 12:46 PM on March 18, 2006

Cardozo, Yeshiva's law school, also closes its law libraries on Saturdays for shabbot. I don't know if this is true for other libraries within the system as well.
posted by Falconetti at 1:25 PM on March 18, 2006

Let's not forget that the university is located in NYC which has certain laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. This came into to play in the housing case as summarized by LLDEF:

Levin v. Yeshiva University

New York
New York Court of Appeals (as a Friend-of-the-Court)


Lambda Legal supported two lesbian medical students and their partners in their efforts to gain access to affordable university housing for couples. Sara Levin and Maggie Jones, both of whom were students at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, were denied housing for themselves and their partners solely because the two couples are not legally married. They sued Yeshiva, alleging that the housing policy has a disparate impact on gay people, and thus violates New York City’s law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in housing. In addition, they argued that the policy violates state and local laws prohibiting discrimination based on marital status.

In an important victory in June 2001, New York’s highest court reversed the trial court’s order dismissing the sexual orientation claims. Dismissal of the marital status claim was, unfortunately, upheld. The case was remanded back to the trial court, where Yeshiva can try to prove that the University has a “business necessity” that justifies its discrimination.

Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Court of Appeals arguing that New York’s law against marital status discrimination prohibits this type of housing discrimination.

The ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project is litigating this case. Lambda Legal’s brief, written by Stephen Scarborough, was filed on behalf of Lambda Legal, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, and People for the American Way Foundation.

Updated: August 5, 2004

Unfortunately, I can't find anything on what happened to the case after this.
posted by bim at 1:29 PM on March 18, 2006

Falconetti, I know that the AECOM university is closed for Shabbot, as my office is beside it.
posted by gaspode at 2:18 PM on March 18, 2006

Dear YU: Yahweh may love you, but everyone else thinks you're an asshole.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2006

posted by farnastic at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2006

I think that memo really says it all.
posted by splitpeasoup at 8:57 PM on March 18, 2006

I think that memo really says it all.

If it's authentic, which it looks like it probably is. While Padiyar has lined up some forensic evidence, it's not perfect. I expect they could subpoena the recipient of the memo, though.

Just as a pertinent aside, I attended YU's undergraduate college for men. All the students there are Jewish. One has to take half a day's worth of Judaic studies courses, in addition to a full load of 'regular' courses. Be that as it may, the opposition among the more Orthodox (and elite) factions of the student body to all things homosexual was very clear. There was talk that some of the rabbinical faculty had ordered students not to vote for a particular candidate for student council president simply because he was gay. Posters for a small event featuring the first openly-gay Orthodox rabbi, Steven Greenberg, were quickly torn down. While I expect the student bodies of the professional schools to be a bit more tolerant, it's sad that the same can't be said for the administration.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:20 PM on March 18, 2006

Several members of my family were original co-founders of at least two the YU graduate schools, and also donated money to the women's undergrad program (Stern College). One relative sat on the board of one of the schools, one of the previous (no longer used) dorms was named for another relative.

So please, understand that when I say that I hope YU gets its ass handed to them in court, that I hope it goes down in a publically embarassing heap and has to not only pay its victims but grovel before them for their disgusting bias and blatantly illegal activities, I am saying this with love--as only a bisexual family member can.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2006

I used to Quiz Bowl in grad school & I'm aware that Yeshiva students who played in tournaments on Saturday would not use buzzers, but would limit themselves to slapping the table. This suggests that the university is not as nonsectarian as it claims to be.
posted by jonp72 at 9:03 AM on March 20, 2006


I was on the YU quiz bowl team for a bit, and you're absolutely right that they wouldn't use buzzers. As far as I know, though, the quiz bowl team was an undergraduate endeavour, and the undergraduate colleges are as sectarian as they get (e.g. must be Jewish to attend). How they reconcile that with the rest of the university is beyond me.
posted by greatgefilte at 5:51 PM on March 20, 2006

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