Two years ago, an Orthodox magazine published an article by a young woman preparing to enter Yale University. She complained that her Orthodox high school had not adequately prepared her for 'the coed dormitories, vociferous homosexuals, countless body piercings, and rainbow-colored hair" she had witnessed on a visit.
At the time, I thought to myself that the problem lay not with her school, but with her parents for sending her to Yale. (More than 20 years ago, the dean of one of the Yale residential colleges advised Orthodox parents against sending their daughters to Yale.) And indeed, the young woman herself seems to have had second thoughts. Upon arriving at Yale, she joined four other students seeking to be excused from the residency requirement for freshmen and sophomores on the grounds that life in Yale dorms is inconsistent with the code of conduct required of Orthodox Jews.
Yale's denial of that request was accompanied by a great deal of high-minded nonsense. Against the students religious beliefs, the dean of the college huffed that Yale too has 'its values and beliefs,' and one of those is the inviolability of the residential college system.
Yale thus raised a rule of two years standing to the level of eternal verity. Two of the Yale Five are local residents. Four of their older siblings attended Yale while living at home, one of them commencing her studies after the rule went into effect.
Thirty years ago, when the parents of these students went to college, a woman in a man's room with the door closed was grounds for expulsion. Today, Yale posts signs telling students where condoms are dispensed and instructs incoming freshmen in the etiquette of getting rid of your roommate when you wish to entertain visitors of the opposite sex.
Once, Yale acted in loco parentis. Today it boasts of having no parietal rules, and deems subjecting students to a totally unsupervised environment an indispensable part of their education.
Crucial as living in the dorms is for the 'Yale experience,' however, the parents of the Five were told that if they would just fork over the $7,000 dorm fee, their children could live wherever they want with no questions asked.
Yale argues the importance of exposure to those from diverse backgrounds. Yet those encounters are far likelier to occur in the classroom and in the dining rooms, where students may sit around for hours, than in the bedrooms. But Yale does not tell Orthodox students, 'You must eat in non-kosher dining halls, and if you don't like it, you can go elsewhere." In fact, Yale generously subsidizes the kosher kitchen.
Everybody knows about kashrut. But the modern liberal, for whom everything is a matter of lifestyles – all equally deserving of toleration - cannot really believe that living in the Yale dorms involves specific religious prohibitions. The Talmud teaches, however, that it is forbidden to watch animals mating lest one's fantasies be aroused. Certainly finding oneself a 'sexile" on the living room couch, while one's roommate claims the bedroom, is far more suggestive.
YALE insists that these students live with roommates who are free to pursue any sexual practices they wish. Yale flatly rejected the Five's suggestion that they be placed with other students who have voluntarily committed to refraining from sex in the dorms. That such an arrangement would place these Orthodox Jews together with religious Catholics, fundamentalist Christians, and Mormons suggests that they are more open to diversity than Yale.
Avuncular, winking Yale is not being neutral; it is weighing in on the side of promiscuity. Students who are not 'hooking-up' receive countless messages that they are out of it. Indeed, if Yale's real goal were the promotion of diversity, it would allow the Five to live off-campus and thereby convey a powerful message that there are those who stand absolutely apart from the prevailing sexual morality.
Much of what passes for diversity in the elite universities today is its Orwellian opposite - a form of thought control. In a truly chilling piece in Commentary, 'A Ladies Room of One's Own,' Williams' student Wendy Wasserstein details the New Canon.
Anyone who mentions the biblical prohibition against homosexuality can expect to receive a letter from the administration warning him against homophobia; but the gay society can deface a Jewish center with graffiti denouncing 'Moses and his homophobic laws." Conservative students who become the focus of campus-wide
harassment will be told by the dean that they'll have to deal with radical feminists in the real world too. But those accused of homophobia, racism, or sexism will feel the full disciplinary wrath of the college and be sent for sensitivity training - our version of the Gulag or Red Guard reeducation.
A young woman who cannot make peace with sharing a toilet and shower with strange males will find herself surrounded by peers encouraging her to 'become comfortable with her body." Further resistance may result in a friendly dorm adviser suggesting the college counselling service, the better to learn to think proper thoughts.
Yale's dirty little secret in this case is that the Five would have fared much better if Yale's president, dean of students, and the counsel handling the case weren't Jewish. They have reacted with the horror of the assimilated suburbanites in Philip Roth's 'Eli the Fanatic" to the appearance of a hassid in town.
When the dean asked the students - all children of successful professionals and worldly enough to get into Yale - 'How do you expect Orthodox Jews to integrate into the real world?" she was really expressing her own fear that the presence of these fanatics might cause others to see her too as foreign, despite all the polish.
For a quarter century, Jews have marched in the vanguard of every movement for sexual liberation. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Yale Five for making clear the true Jewish teachings on sexual ethics.