Friday, December 9, 2011

Yeshiva University cuts funding to student online newspaper after it refused to take down column detailing a sexual encounter

An online student newspaper at a private Jewish university in New York lost its funding after it refused to take down a literary column detailing a sexual encounter between two students.
The column, published Dec. 5 in the YU Beacon, one of Yeshiva University’s four student newspapers, was written by an anonymous female author who describes a sexual tryst with a young man inside a Manhattan hotel room.
The writer identifies herself as a 20-year-old modern Orthodox Jewish woman who attends Stern College for Women – one of the university’s three undergraduate schools – and whose conscience weighs heavily on her as she engages in an alcohol-fueled rendezvous with a secret lover.
The piece, titled “How Do I Even Begin to Explain This,” concludes with the young woman’s regret over the encounter: “The only thing I learn is how to do the walk of shame the day after,” the author writes.
The column, however, did not sit well with university officials or the student council, which threatened to remove the newspaper’s funding if it did not pull or alter the piece, one of the newspaper’s editors told
Simi Lampert said she and coeditor Toviah Moldwin met Wednesday night with three school administrators, as well as the president and secretary of student council, in an attempt to resolve the issue.
Lampert claims the school asked them to either remove the column from the newspaper’s website or “change some of the wording” in it – options Lampert said she could not accept.
“They were offering compromises and we didn’t want to make those compromises,” she explained. “We then said we didn’t want to be an official publication of YU.”
Lampert said the YU Beacon is reimbursed up to $500 a semester by the school for any work-related costs. If the newspaper is no longer affiliated with the university, it is not eligible for funding, she said.
Matt Yaniv, Yeshiva University’s associate director of media relations, said in a statement Thursday that the school did not pull funding from The Beacon.
“The Beacon received their funding from the school’s student government, who allocates funds to all student clubs,” he wrote in an email to “After posting an article that made many students uncomfortable, the student council president approached The Beacon editors on behalf of the students, asking them to take it down.
“After an amicable discussion between the two sides, The Beacon decided to part ways and become an independent publication.”
The university, Yaniv said, acted only as a “mediator” between the newspaper and student council.
Under Orthodox Jewish law, premarital sex is prohibited. In its mission statement, Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish school with two undergraduate campuses, says the school strives to “Infuse the student body with a spirit of leadership and a sense of responsibility to the Jewish people and society in general.”
It also looks to “build, cultivate and support communities and their lay and rabbinic leaders” and “create a global movement that promotes the values of Yeshiva University.”
An editor’s note posted above the article describes the newspaper’s column section, “The Written Word,” as a section “designated for student literary expression with both fictional and nonfictional content.”
“Literary works occasionally contain material that can be perceived as offensive by some readers, so reader discretion is advised,” the statement reads.

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