Yale lacks sensitivity to religious views

If you're like many IU students, dorm life won't be your favorite college memory. Most students move off-campus by their junior year. A lot of those students leave the dorms because they feel too restricted, and want to be out from under the watchful eye of RA's and other authority figures.

About sixty students at Yale also don't want to stay in dorms. They are not concerned, however, about the restrictiveness of the dorms. In fact, their complaint is that the dorm environment is too permissive. These students are Orthodox Jews and claim that "loose sexual attitudes in coed dormitories violate their religious beliefs," according to Associated Press reports. They initiated a lawsuit against the University earlier this month after negotiations failed to resolve the conflict between the students and the administration, which requires all freshmen and sophomores to live in coed dorms.

This mandatory two-year sentence to University housing is suspect for several reasons, and even more so when they won't allow exceptions for religious beliefs. Yale argues that staying in dorms is beneficial to students, and a crucial part of "the Yale experience." It is reasonable that there are benefits to living in a dorm for the beginning of one's college career. For those first few months, it can help students find their place academically and socially, instead of just holing themselves up in an apartment somewhere. But something is amiss when the University feels it needs to force students to live in the dorms.

If dormitory living is truly the benefit that Yale claims, it would logically follow that students would freely choose to live there. Is there something wrong with the dorm system at Yale? At I.U., students are not required to stay in the dorms, yet nearly all freshmen do, as well as a large percentage of sophomores. They see certain benefits on their own--without the help of "Big Nanny"-style intrusion by authorities.

This mandated situation creates great opportunity for taking advantage of students. When students have no other options, the University has little incentive to provide quality services for dorm residents, or to listen to their complaints. At other schools, dorms have been making transitions to the modern era, offering more comfortable accommodations, advantages such as Internet connections, and improved food services. Much of this has been in efforts to keep students coming back, but this motive does not exist under the system at Yale.

Finally, and most disturbingly, Yale has shown a phenomenal insensitivity to these Orthodox Jewish students by attempting to force them into a situation which violates their faith. Tolerance of all races, religions, and cultures has become a prime tenet of "diversity" on college campuses. Undoubtedly, students in Yale's dorms are subjected to "education" about respecting every group from Lithuanians to lesbians. At the same time, though, this very same system is subjecting these devout Jews to conditions they find highly offensive, under the premise that the administration knows best what is good for the students--better, undoubtedly, than their parents or rabbis. University officials claim they are not discriminating, but wish only to "integrate them into the school." It is the height of hypocrisy when those who advocate "diversity" seek to assimilate a minority group by forcibly exposing them to a hostile environment.

Eric Seymour

Robert Schiener