The scandal surrounding the YU beacon's publication of a Stern College student's alleged account of a sexual liaison with a YU boy demonstrates the immaturity of the YU's rabbis and of its student council.
Here are the facts:
• The Yeshiva University Beacon, an online newspaper funded by YU's student council (it received $500 per semester and had the status of club) published an article written (allegedly) by an anonymous Stern College for Women (YU's female half) student about a sexual encounter she supposedly had with a YU boy in a hotel. The article was published with a warning that its content might be disturbing to some readers.
• The article doesn't describe any sexual act or body parts and it concludes with the newly deflowered Stern girl feeling guilty and remorseful and regretting her indiscretion.
• The article is almost certainly fiction. It may be loosely based on reality or it may be the author's fantasy – or it may even have been a practical joke. But based on how it is written, I highly doubt it is anything other than fiction. (And this opinion is shared by every writer I know who has read it.)
• YU asked but didn't ask the Beacon to pull the piece.
• The Beacon temporarily pulled the piece as a show of good faith and met with its funder – YU's student council.
• The student council insisted the article should be permanently removed from the Beacon's website because the majority of students it was aware of were angry the article was published.
• The Beacon's editors declined and instead agreed to separate from YU and give up the $500 per semester the student council was giving it.
Besides the bad fiction masquerading as fact, the real problem here is that students and the student council think that funding a newspaper the student council control over what that newspaper publishes.
Past certain understandable red lines – illegal activity, for example, like stealing computers and using them to compose the newspaper, or bribing people to tell lies about someone – newspapers should be left alone to report the news and to print opinion pieces from readers, even if those opinions run contrary to the generally accepted views of YU, Stern and the student body.
The proper response to an article like the one that caused YU's senior rabbis to flap their wings, puff out their chests and act like the emotional midgets they so often can be, would have been to write an article in response.
In fact, this anonymous Stern girl gave these rabbis a perfect opening for doing so.
After all, she closed her article by talking about her guilt and remorse. The rabbis could have used that discuss the emptiness of casual relationships, the alleged beauty of the Torah's way of dating and marriage, etc.
Instead, the rabbis did what they did behind the scenes and the student council did their bidding.
The supposed masses of students who hated that the article was published?
Based on the New Voices tally of Facebook likes and dislikes and past history, I'd think those masses of students were really equally split between supporting the Beacon and opposing it, and the student council really was doing the will of YU's rabbis and the administration that kowtows to them. (By the way, New Voices broke this story and, typically, got no credit for it – Rupert Murdock's Fox News and WSJ did pieces clearly based on New Voices' reporting but did not cite New Voices and acted as if they had broken the story instead.)
The administration also has to worry about parents – especially wealthy parents – who send their daughters to Stern College expecting they will spend four chaste years there taking whatever classes might interest them as they even more chastely date YU boys who they never, ever touch. One of those boys, these parents hope, preferably a rich one or one who is on his way to med school or law school, will ask their daughter to marry him. That, after all, is what makes a Stern College "education" worth the money.
The bottom line here is that, while the issues change, the restriction on the press in the Jewish world outside YU remains largely the same.
Most local Jewish newspapers do little more than publish Federation press releases, and crime committed by Jews is almost entirely absent from their pages.
Only the two very largest US markets, New York and Los Angeles, support any real Jewish journalism. And even that is more often than you may realize limited by Federation/big Jewish organizations interference.
YU's student council did the wrong thing. It sent the wrong message. It listened to the wrong voices. And it probably lied.
In doing so, it did nothing different than what Jewish Federations often do.
That doesn't make it right.
It just makes it more of the same.
[Hat Tip: Frum Satire.]