Yeshiva University Student Government Reinstates Campus Democrat Club

On Monday, the presidents of the university's student councils decided not to renew the YU College Democrats's club status after they held an unofficial LGBTQ rights protest

Molly Meisels and Courtney Marks stand outside Yeshvia University in New York, September 15, 2019.
Danielle Ziri

NEW YORK — The Yeshiva University student government on Thursday reversed its decision not to renew club status for a College Democrats group that had organized an LGBTQ rights protest earlier this month.

In an email, the school's two student councils, the Yeshiva Student Union and Stern College for Women Student Council, announced that they will sponsor the YU College Democrats after careful consideration. It was sent by both council's presidents, Ariel Stacknovitz of YSU and Aleeza Katz of SCWSC, to the heads of the club.

>> Read more: 'It feels like my own school hates me': Yeshiva University students protest for LGBTQ representation

On Monday, student newspaper The Commentator reported that when the club submitted its application to renew its status, the presidents of the two branches of the student government rejected it, citing the protest the club had organized against some of the university’s practices in an “unofficial capacity” earlier this month.

The presidents of the councils said that the basis of their decision was the unofficial character of the event, stating all events should “run through the regular club channels."

For the College Democrats to regain their status, the club heads will have to "affirm that they agree to follow the rules set forth by the student councils" and sign a document stating that they "understand the consequences of breaking those rules."

The reinstatement of the group as an official university-sanctioned club came after a public backlash to the presidents' decision not to recognize it. The YU Democrats had received support from groups including the College Democrats of New York, who had called the move “retaliatory.”

On September 15, the Yeshiva University College Democrats organized a protest for better representation for LGBTQ students on campus. Some of the protesters' demands included the condemnation of homophobic rhetoric from university President Rabbi Ari Berman, and the ability to organize events involving LGBTQ people and related issues, which they say they has been repeatedly denied.

While the protest was being planned, Sacknovitz sent Molly Meisels, one of the protest organizers, an email on behalf of the presidents saying that all events must "run through the regular club channels" — even though the march took place off-campus with no on-campus advertising. Meisels said there was no university rule against such activities, and told Haaretz that "The whole point of the march was that [LGBTQ] events don’t get approved” in the first place.

Thursday's reversal “showcases the reach of collective power," Meisels said. “When the decision was made to refuse club renewal, students rose up,” she said. “Their frustrations with the injustice propagated by the councils led them to enact real change. Students did this."

Had student government at Yeshiva University decided to uphold their decision, Meisels told Haaretz, there would have been two Republican groups on campus and no Democrat one.

She added that, next time, she hopes the presidents will meet and communicate with student leaders before removing a club's status, but that she was “glad the council presidents recognized the importance of the Democrats and the error of their ways."