Thursday, February 21, 2008

A History Case

Even if it doesn't get published, I thought I would share the letter I just sent to The Commentator with the YU Vent community. The article my letter responds to can be found here.

Dear The Commentator,

I read with much interest and concern Yehuda Bernstein's piece on the YC history major. (It's lone factual error should nonetheless be brought to light: a 39 credit history major is certainly not "by far more than any other major" when compared to computer science's 47 or chemistry's staggering 52!) I found the article important and informative, both as a history major and a concerned YU student. That being said, I feel the author failed to focus on the most disturbing aspect of the Major mess: the Administration's failure to quickly respond to something so basic yet so significant.

Last week, I had the displeasure of informing a fellow history major that the plans he made for his future at YU required major readjustment. For despite the publicity given the history major debacle (yes, lying on the school website and official school forms is no less than a debacle), the administration has not taken a single step to redeem themselves and inform the student body of the change. Not even a dime-a-dozen ystud. Hence, my friend still hadn't known that the two-year plan he had worked out, wouldn't actually work out.

I don't know who's in charge of these things (perhaps the root of the entire problem), but the situation is moving from irresponsible to downright inconsiderate. After a posting on the Senate website (available at, a Commy article, and much general disgruntlement, the YU website continues to maintain dated history major information. Additionally, the Advising Center website continues to misadvise students that history is still a 30-credit major. I won't comment on what I think about the policy change in general, but I will say that what is occurring is lifnei iver of the highest form.

The entire incident questions the administration's commitment to its students. Change requires time, especially on as large a sclae as a university. But when something as simple as changing a few lines of HTML isn't taken care of, it makes one wonder whether the issue is time . . . or concern.

Still waiting,
Julian Horowitz
YC Sophomore and contributor to The YU Vent (

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Projecting Improvements

During last month's Honors Program town hall meeting, Professor Otteson noted that the senior honors thesis may be modified to a more general senior project. As I thought about this, it hit me that these projects could be a great way to help YU. How better to cap off four years at a university you love than to give something back? If we have some of our best and brightest spend an entire year working to improve things, something's bound to go right. Here are some ideas I wanted to throw out and see what the people think:

1. The Golden Caf: Though fear of redundancy has prevented The YU Vent from commenting on what one Commentator article describes as “reprehensible,” we wholeheartedly agree that something is fishy at the caf, and it's not just yesterday's beer-butter pollock. The 1998-1999 undergraduate catalog (available here) lists Dining Club Membership at $1300 a year, while the 2007-2008 catalog has the Campus Meal Plan priced at $2,620. This doubling represents an increase about four times as large as the rise in the Consumer Price Index over that same time period, and rumor has it that prices will keep going up.
Enter a senior, majoring in Economics. He audits the caf and discloses exactly what it going down behind the counters. Also, he creates a viable microeconomic model for the future, thereby ensuring normal prices and less whining. If it turns out that the caf must do what it's doing now in order to survive, this is now backed up by our student's data and students have one less thing to complain about.

2. Evaluating Evaluations: Several years ago, a senior at Queens College created a senior project that despite its simplicity has proved extremely helpful. Every semester, we pour our hearts out on our course evaluation forms, hoping to see less of what we hate and more of what we love in the future. Unfortunately, we never see this information again. Our senior at Queens created a database which allows simple entry and analysis of the evaluation data, and the results are available to all. It's like on steroids. Before any student registers for any class, he sees the teacher's overall ranking, the teacher's rankings from this past semester, and other useful information about the course.
A similar idea would be developing an improved registration program.

3. Culture on Campus II: Create something beautiful for YU. It needn't be a bust of Belkin, (we already have one of those) but it could be a selection of inspiring and appropriate quotes to be hung at strategic locations around campus. A Jewish History major could research and organize a small exhibit for any of the many open spaces on campus. A music major or cantorial student could compose and record a YU anthem.

My list goes on but my time doesn't, so I'll stop here. I think this represents a great opportunity to actively take the future of YU into our hands.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

An Open Door Policy

Universities should open new doors for their students; too often, though, students open doors for the University.

For example, a round trip from the Morg Beit Medrash to the Caf requires opening and closing up to eighteen separate doors.* While the main entrances to Morg and Rubin should obviously remain closed (weather, security, etc.), what of the other obstacles?

In particular, the two portals framing the Caf staircase are asking for trouble: thousands of students all forced to make that "wait, just . . . 'scuse me" as they wiggle around oncoming traffic, only to re-balance their lunches and attempt the risky Two Fingered Door Opener move.

Men, lend me your triangle door stops! If you see a door that could be propped open, do the future a favor: keep our doors open!

*Beit Medrash double doors, bottom Morg staircase, top Morg staircase, Morg security double doors, Morg Main entrance, Rubin main entrance, security double doors, top Caf staircase, bottom Caf staircase, and back.