Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / January 22, 1998 / 24 Tevet, 5758
At Yale, bet on yarmukle over gown
FOR AN EGREGIOUS EXAMPLE of conservative moral myopia, see the article by E.V. Kontorovich on the "Yale Five" in a recent issue of National Review.
Orthodox Jews, the Five are undergraduates who refuse to live in the school's fornication-friendly dormitories on the grounds that to do so would violate the Biblical mandate of modesty.
Kontorovich presents the dissidents not as men and women of conscience, but as just another insistent minority, trying to use diversity appeals to bend the majority to its will.
The Five "claim their religion requires a degree of sexual modesty incompatible with campus life," the writer sneers.
Wrong. They object to only one aspect of campus life -- being forced to live in gender-integrated dorms, where sleep-overs by boyfriends or girlfriends are ubiquitous, and where one is apt to encounter members of the opposite sex in a bathroom or anywhere else.
"The group's methods come straight from the playbook of political correctness," Kontorovich charges.
Wrong again. The students aren't demanding that Yale remake itself in the image of their values (though that would constitute moral progress), simply that they not be compelled to conform to the school's neo-pagan ethos.
The Orthodox kids aren't actually required to check in to these collegiate versions of the Hot-Sheet Motel. They can pay for a dorm room ($7,000 a year) and live elsewhere. But the Five refuse to render what amounts to tribute to Yale for the privilege of practicing their religion.
They have suggested a compromise -- assignment to single-sex suites, with the university enforcing (with threats of expulsion) the purity of these living arrangements.
Oh gracious, says Yale, that would put us in the position of policing intimate behavior. Of course, the school doesn't mind regulating personal conduct in other circumstances. It recently promulgated a rule that punishes professors who date students they teach.
For freshmen and sophomores, living in gender-mixed residences (or dorms to which the other sex has easy access) is "part of the centrality of the Yale educational experience," says residential dean James R. van de Velde -- Shakespeare, Sartre and steamy showers with your significant other.
Elisha Dov Hack, one of the Five, got an intimation of the richness of that experience early in his freshman year.
Entering a dorm for a meeting with his senior advisor, he noticed a sign on a bulletin board that read "Where Are the Goods?" with a arrow pointing to a bag (labeled "The Stuff") containing condoms. Presumably, these were to be consumed on the premises.
Hack also notes that a guide to campus slang, included in the freshman-orientation packet, defines "sexile" as "banishment from your room because your roommate is having more fun than you." It must be prevalent, if there's a word for it.
Exactly why is intimate contact with the opposite sex central to the Yale experience? After all, many schools allow self-segregation by racial minorities. Why is Yale so intransigent when it comes to students who want to live apart for reasons not of race but of faith-based morality?
Quite simply, gender-mixing (in bedrooms, bathrooms and the corridors of dormitories) is crucial to the '60s mindset that dominates every aspect of academia.
Like Plato -- who wanted to break down gender roles and natural inhibitions by having young men and women exercise together in the nude -- administrators wish to make their own contribution to re-shaping societal norms.
From this perspective, it is necessary for men and women to become accustomed to having the opposite sex (clothed, naked and semi-clad) in every area of their lives. Privacy and modesty are to be afforded no sphere.
If promiscuous sexual relations result from this indescriminate intermingling, so much the better. This will help to overcome the puritanical dogma that sex should be confined to marriage.
Standing against this Babylonian onslaught are the Five, who filed suit in federal court in October to stop Yale from forcing its immortality on them. They are quietly cheered on by a number of Christian students with similar qualms, who would also like the right to opt out of Sodom.
On its seal, Yale has the motto "Light and Truth" in Hebrew. The Yale Five wish to remain true to Divine law, as revealed by the light of Sinai. The school's current commitments lie in a different direction. In this struggle between yarmulke and gown, bet on the former.
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