It seems that Yeshiva University is in yet another scandal over it’s policies and treatment of homosexual students. According to the NY Post, AECOM student Jeevan Padiyar, a homosexual student, was harassed over the passed three years and eventually dismissed from the school. Padiyar alleges that his treatment was purely based on his sexual orientation. While such allegations are normally difficult to prove, Padiyar has produced a particularly incriminating memo (pdf) allegedly sent by Dr. James David, the Associate Dean for Students.
This of course is only the most recent instance in YU’s long history of questionable dealings with homosexual students. However, the previous cases dealt mostly with treating homosexual couples as married, a legal status which is still being debated. This accusation is by far the most direct challenge to YU’s general attitude and the evidence most explicit (uncharacteristically so for YU).
From the institutional side, these scandals are directly related to YU’s decision long ago to become a secular institution. Despite having a name like “Yeshiva” would imply “religious,” but officially, as YU frequently asserts that it is not a “Jewish” institution, but rather “under Orthodox auspices.”1
I find two possible reasons for YU assuming this label. First could be the practical effects of secularization such that to be accepted in the secular world and compete academically with other institutions, YU would have to shed some degree of its religious baggage.
The other and most obvious reason for YU’s dubious classification is simple economics. Were YU to designate itself as a religious institution, it would be ineligible for federal funds. I have no idea how much money is at stake. Presumably, at the time the decision was made, YU’s financial situation was tenuous enough such that it needed the government money in order to survive. However, as of 2004 YU’s endowment is just over $1.1 Billion. Though I am unfamiliar with the economics of universities, I’m assuming YU is in fairly decent financial shape.
Ideologically, the costs of YU’s institutional designation are much higher and gradually rising. Since YU cannot discriminate against protected groups, it must adapt even when such groups contradict it’s religious convictions. Twenty years ago, homosexuality was popularly considered deviant behavior, but today society is significantly more tolerant. Twenty years from now, who knows what else will be acceptable by society’s standards, but YU will be forced to adjust.
Even if for the sake of argument we assume that Mr. Padiyar fabricated the entire story and the memo, this is still a headache YU could do without, but one which it has brought upon itself. Religiously, YU is entitled to have its own opinion of homosexuals – Jewish or otherwise – but if it wishes to conduct itself primarily by religious rules, it cannot pretend to be a secular institution. At some point, YU must choose to either rescind its decision and become a fully religious institution or it can continue as is, provided it finally accepts and deals with its own compromises lest it forget another Jewish value – mid’var sheker tirchak (Ex. 23:7).
1. The rabbinical school RIETS is obviously religious and as such is not officially designated as part of Yeshiva University, but rather an “affiliate.”
nott that this makes a huge difference either way, but i’m not actually sure that New York includes gay folk in its antidiscrimination clause. In any case, at the national level it is perfectly legal to discriminate against gay people (at least in schooling, anking an dhousing may be different)
TThere are plenty of schools that receive federal funding (such as Brigham Young University) that simply and explicitly say that homosexual behaviour is against their honor code and students that engage in it will be asked to leave.
What surprises me is the roundaboutedness in YU alleged attempts to get this kid out of their school and what seems like an attempt not only to remove him from the school, but also to throw a major wrench in this students potential for future employment.
Very interesting! Keep them coming…
the endowment on the linked site says over 1 MILLION, not 1 Billion.
I’ve added some further speculations and thoughts on this on my own blog apparently I actually had quite abitt to say on this…
Anon – note that the header’s have $000 indicating that you add three zeros to the totals listed. E.g. the article notes that Harvard’s endowment is 22 billion not million.
Anon: There’s a (000) indication in the header at the top of the grid: that means you need to add three zeros to the number in the column.
Josh: I don’t understand what the integrity problem is. Every institution has the right to lean in any direction it wants within the bounds of the law. Obviously, these allegations, if true, are in violation of the law and that is troubling. However, if an institution says “Based on religious instruction, I choose to favor or disfavor group X as much as the law allows,” what’s the matter?
A few thoughts.
Yeshiva University’s endowment according to the public record is indeed 1.1 billion.
Also Jose- You are right gays are not protected at a federal level but are in NY state and New York city.
Lastly in response to comments on Jose’s blog-
Your doubts were the same that I and my legal team had about this document. My first thought when seeing it was ?Are they really that stupid?? So to allay some my doubts we had a team of experts examine it and the facts around it. Among the members of that team were a forensic linguist, a computer expert and a polygraph examiner (for me). The analysis came back that the memo looked authentic, so we went to court with it. If you?d like to see the evidence for yourself and examine many of the documents in my case, please goto http://www.yeshivavictims.org. It?s all there.
—The discussion is good. The more eyeballs that are able to analyze the documents the better.
I appreciate everyones scrutiny of the case and welcome any questions you may have. Please send them to email@example.com.
As someone who does know how an endowment works, I will explain: An endowment is a bulk of money donated to a University or another non-profit organization. This bulk of money is invested in various fiancial instruments and the proceeds (Interest and capital gains) are then used by the University while the bulk sum is maintained. Therefore, it is not as if YU has a billion bucks lying around. Often, endowments are tied up in long term investments. I personally know that YU did not invest with hedge fund I worked for, and If I remember correctly, has a rather conservative investment policy. This means that they probably are tied up in long term investments and do not have huge funds from the endowment. However, new laws have forced endowments to set aside a certain percentage as insurance. This cannot be used for any purpose but can certainly be accessed as claimable assets in a lawsuit (while endowments genrally cannot!). I’m sure Jeevan’s lawyers already know this, though.
Dear Josh et al,
No amtter what the situation actually is, doesn’t this bother anyone dealing with thier whole Center for the Jewish Future thing?
I mean, coming from a young’un who reads this blog, it is slowly growing more common to be out, and too be accepted as out. If YU takes this course of behavior, (or nay other course), they are not only sending a mesage about homosexuality, but also the way Jews should and shouldn’t stay in step with the rest of the country. (or at least with the rest of NY)
How am I, the next generation of people, supposed to take that my leaders, on one hand, are actively condeming GBLT people (in a sense, by being discrimantory), while on the other hand, I interact with those who are GBLT everyday (where being discrimantory is not an accepted behavior.
Further, how does this affect the YU bochur and bochurette’s opinions about how the world works around them? What kind of worldly behavior do they want to enforce from their students when they want them to interact with the world?
How does this affect My generation’s meaning of orthodoxy, in other words.
Acutally federal funding is HUGE at Yeshiva, particularly at Albert Einstein College of Medicine where ;the faculty receive federal grants.
For every $1 milllion in grants the university colllects an additional $700,000 in overhead. The average RO1 grant is $500K to $1mil. If you figure there are about 240 faculty there, and all are required to have grants or leave the institution (there is no longer tenure there), well you do the math.
Add on top of that federal benefits for tuition, enrollment etc. That is a HUGE amount of money. Einstein supports the whole YU system with the money it brings in.
Also, the major donor for Einstein is the Belfer Family (i.e. the Belfer building), which eventually became part of Enron. I think that source of income is pretty much dried up. Yeshiva is in deep doo-doo these days.