Yeshiva University Suspends Club Activities After Supreme Court Allows LGBTQ Club
Yeshiva University (YU) in New York froze all undergraduate club activity last week after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the university to abide by a lower court’s ruling that compelled it to recognize YU Pride Alliance, an LGBTQ student organization, as a valid club.
The Supreme Court’s Sept. 14 order is the latest development in a court battle that began in April 2021, when YU Pride Alliance sued the university for refusing to accept its application to the club. In response, YU, a private Orthodox Jewish university, argued that being forced to recognize YU Pride Alliance would count as an endorsement of the group’s message, thereby violating the institution’s right to free speech.
The case revolved around the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. YU claimed it was a “religious corporation” rather than a secular educational institution, exempting it from NYCHRL.
In June 2022, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of YU Pride Alliance and ordered the university to grant the club’s application for recognition as a student group. YU then requested an emergency stay from the United States Supreme Court, which the court denied by a 5-4 vote, arguing that the case must first go through the New York court system.
In response to the decision, YU said in an unattributed Sept. 16 email to students that it would pause all club events.
“The university will suspend all undergraduate club activities while it immediately takes steps to follow the roadmap provided by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect YU’s religious freedom,” the email reads.
On September 21, YU Pride Alliance wrote in a statement, which was shared on Twitter by one of the plaintiffs in the case, that he would voluntarily agree to suspend the New York court order – thereby delaying the club’s approval. “We accept this stay … because we do not want YU to punish our compatriots [students] by ending all student activities while he sidesteps his responsibilities,” the statement read.
“YU is attempting to hold all of its students hostage as it deploys manipulative legal tactics, all in an effort to avoid treating our club the same way,” the statement continued.
Members of the YU community lamented the university’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision, and more than 1,600 students, alumni, and faculty signed an open letter calling on the university to recognize YU Pride Alliance. YU had “deployed our sacred Torah values in service of purposes that our Torah does not sanction,” the letter states.
Others, however, called on the university to stand by its decision to reject the YU Pride Alliance application in the name of maintaining religious independence. In an op-ed in the Commentator, YU’s student newspaper, Rabbi Rafi Eis argued that YU should “return to its original charter” as a religious institution rather than a secular school.
UVA Reports Hate Crime, Black Students Demand Action
Black students at the University of Virginia (UVA) released an open letter Sept. 17 demanding that the university take action after a campus-wide Sept. 8 email reported an incident he classified as a hate crime.
At 4:20 a.m. on September 8, UVA campus security discovered a noose around the neck of a statue in the center of campus. The attacker – who was seen in security footage placing the noose on the statue at 11.15pm on September 7 – also left several unpublished documents at the scene. On September 22, the university confirmed that one of the documents said “TICK TOCK”.
The letter, which was attributed to “The Black Student Body” and published in [ITAL] The Daily Rider, criticized the university’s handling of the incident and demanded that the AVU be more transparent in its investigation. In the two weeks since the incident, the university has not released photos of the suspect and released minimal information regarding the documents found at the scene.
The open letter also called for a university-wide town hall, a “significant financial contribution” to address the emotional impact of campus racism on black students at UVA, and “all schools and university departments [to] identify and respond to requests from Black students within their specific institutions.”
“These demands do not justify committees. No working groups. No bureaucracy. Only our voices have met with deeds,” the letter reads.
The September 8 hate crime is the latest at a university that has recently grappled with its history of racism. In a 2018 report, UVA revealed that the construction work on the university campus “was done overwhelmingly by slave labor”. According to the report, many UVA alumni were “leading voices in the pro-slavery movement,” some of whom served as Confederate cabinet officers.
At the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville – which ended with a car attack who killed one and injured 35 – white supremacists marched through the UVA campus and clashed with university counter-protesters. Two of the white supremacist leaders were UVA alumni. [ITAL] The Chronicle of higher education later reported that the AVU administration had misrepresented its prior knowledge of the rally in public documents detailing its response to the protest.