Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Entitlement Syndrome: When Students Think Their College is Their Hotel

I read this post over at the YU Beacon and found it whiny enough to merit fisking. So let's take this line by line.

The position of the author, Mouchka, is that Yeshiva University is a sad and horrifying place because it has times that it closes its doors on the students and the aforementioned students are forced to fend for themselves.

Her first experience with this occurred when YU told her that she would have to find a place to stay for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Mouchka ended up staying by a Chabad family and the experience was distressing and uncomfortable for her.

Then she claims that YU closes its doors during the summer, when classes are in session, but not in the winter, when they are not. This is a foolish statement. Anyone who has been signed up for any summer course at YU (aka moi, my friends Malka and Daphne, the list goes on) knows that special apartments (not the regular dorms) are available for use during that time. So this is a poorly researched and incorrect point.

Mouchka then asks:
    Time for a riddle. You don’t live in the city. You don’t have family in New York or New Jersey. For some reason your friends can’t have you, especially with your stuff, or all of your friends come from your hometown and have the same issue as you do. Okay, so you are a good girl and you rent an apartment for June, but no owner has on his calendar a month of rent starting before the 1st because that’s the way the world works. Question: where do you go between the 27th and the 1st? You end up spending four nights on the streets.
This statement is patently ridiculous.

1. If you don't want to hold on to all your stuff, there is the option of using CollegeBoxes. Many of my friends did just that- packed up their things and had them kept over the summer, only to return to campus to find them in their new dorm rooms.

2. If you do want to hold on to your all stuff but don't know a single friend in the entirety of New York, there are shuls which have hospitality programs and would be happy to put you up. Perhaps the most obvious choice would be Mt. Sinai in Washington Heights. There are plenty of YU and Stern graduates living in the Heights who could arrange for you to sleep on their couch for four nights.

3. If you have friends who live outside of the city but in Brooklyn, Queens etc, rent a UHaul or a Zipcar and drop off your belongings by their house, stay with them for four days, and then move into your new apartment. If you don't have a license, take a cab.

4. Perhaps the most obvious option: if you know absolutely no one in New York City, then you can take advantage of a youth hostel, motel or hotel and stay there for four days.

However, the fact that you don't understand when the Housing Office at YU calls your situation a "dilemma" demonstrates your lack of comprehension regarding what YU is. YU is a college. It is not your home. It is certainly not your hotel. The fact that you really believe that the only options you were given was to stay in Yeshiva University or stay on the streets simply demonstrates a lack of creative thinking on your part. The 770 option, while along the right track, is an odd idea- there are shuls that offer hospitality; it's your job to call them up, explain your situation and find a community member happy to host you (as people in Washington Heights, for example, would certainly be happy to do).

But Mouchka's not done. Here's her next gem:

"This past January, a friend who wishes to remain anonymous graduated from Stern. She had her last final on January 5th and was required to be out by January 6th. As a pre-med student with no one to help her move out, she emailed the housing administration to explain that with all her finals she had not had time to pack everything, and that she would not be able to be done by shabbat. On Friday night, she was sleeping in her room when, at 3am, security brutally knocked on her door. She had to get out immediately, they demanded. By immediately, I mean immediately. She had to go right now, at 3am, out of the dorms and onto the streets in her pajamas – on Friday night, when you can’t even call anyone, when you can’t go anywhere."

Let me get this right. The administration made perfectly clear that she had to leave on January 6th. She chose not to think. She didn't start packing in advance, she didn't have any friends assist her in packing in advance, then, after flouting the directives, simply told the school she wasn't moving. In that case, she got what was coming to her- namely, the response that you don't get away with breaking the rules.

I've had crazy schedules. I've had finals. And yet, somehow, despite my sleep deprivation and my many tests, I managed to get all my belongings packed and moved out by the due date. If I can do it, so can you, and the fact that you expect to be rewarded for breaking rules and deciding that they simply don't apply to you- that your pre-med status makes everything forgivable- is your own fault.

"Last time Jews kicked other Jews out of their homes, at least the movers had a political agenda. But what is the agenda of a school that claims to welcome every Jewish student but asks security guards to kick those students out at 3am on a Friday night? What does stranding students on the street say about the quality of care for the student, and what does it say about the Jewish values which are fundamental to this institution? There is a lot that we accept from Stern because we believe in its message as a religious institution, but how should we react when the foundation of religion and humanity is absent? How does a demand for sleeves to the elbows and skirts to the knees jive with a housing policy that boots students onto the street in the middle of the night?"

Here's what it says, Mouchka. It says that Yeshiva University and specifically Stern College is a university, not a sanitorium or hotel. It says that the employees need to spend the summer cleaning, repainting and otherwise preparing the dorms so that they will be beautiful, clean and pleasant for students when they move back in. It says that an institution cannot make exceptions for you and your pre-med friend because pretty soon, given that precedent, they are going to have to start making exceptions for everyone, in which case they will never close! It says that you should stop feeling entitled to having the school bend over backwards to accomodate your fellowship needs or your pre-med exhaustion and start doing the bending in order to accomodate their schedule. It says that your comparison of being kicked out of the Stern dorms to Israelis being kicked out of their settlement homes is ugly, heinous and demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of what that situation was like. What it really says is that you have to start being a grown up. Grown-ups earn things; they don't expect them as their right. Adults comprehend when an institution or system cannot start making exceptions especially for them. They understand that they have to live with their choices. You, for instance, made a choice to attend a fellowship program in New York City. You knew at the time that Stern ended in May and you only started renting an apartment in June. Because of the fact that you made that choice, that's your problem to solve. But demanding that the school stay open later for you and arguing that if they don't do so they demonstrate a lack of humane and religious values is so ludicrous as to be completely pathetic.

In short: grow up.


Unknown said...

Hear, hear.

Anonymous said...

These kids are paying $50k/year for the privilege of attending YU. It's not whiny or immature to expect better. As paying customers, they are indeed entitled to a modicum of decent service. I attended YU undergrad, and am currently attending graduate school at a prestigious university, and you wouldn't believe the difference in the level of service. In YU, everything was my problem and nobody could be bothered; in my current school, they are happy to help with anything and everything because they are thrilled to be getting my tuition dollars when I could have easily taken them elsewhere. Yes, in life you have to earn things- but if you're paying money (and for YU, it's a heckuva lot), it is not wrong to expect a level of service commensurate with what you're paying.

I do agree that her Gush Katif reference was wrong and uncalled for.

Former YU student said...

It's not exactly normal for a religious university to kick people out on Friday night. If this actually happened, it is rather strange and quite shocking.

You are completely right, Chana, that the rules need to be followed and she broke the rules. But instead of fining her for the extended stay or something along those lines, the university chose to kick her out in the middle of Shabbos. I find that incredibly irresponsible.

(If we're already talking about this, the rooms aren't that "beautiful", "clean" or "pleasant" to begin with, and the employees certainly don't need nor take the entire summer to clean them--I know this from discussions with YU employees)

I've attended and visited numerous universities (including YU, Ivy Leagues and Community Colleges) and am now teaching in a university, as well. I can tell you--just from my experiences alone--that the level of bureaucracy in YU is astounding.

In short, you are 100% correct that people should not feel entitled to anything and should not assume that a 'university' is their home. However, it is absolutely not ok, rules be damned, that a religious institution kicks a student out in the middle of Shabbos. Make sure to enforce the rules on Friday morning, or Saturday night, but not in between. It is, after all (or is it?) a YESHIVA university.

Anonymous said...

It's not a proven fact that the pre-med student was kicked out on shabbos in the middle of the night. We all would have heard about this and we didn't. It does sound like Mouchka and her friend believe they should have whatever they want regardless of establushed rules and that's wrong and indicative of NES.

Anonymous said...

Moving out of Stern and into another dorm for the summer was an absolute nightmare. Everything that could be made inconvenient, was. And after two years of dealing with the ridiculous red tape and stupidity of just trying to swipe a caf card when on financial hold or attempting to switch a class had me pretty fed up over all. I get that rules are rules, but I more strongly feel that YU owes its students way more than it generally provides and could stand to learn a lot about the human side of business.

LRS said...

I'm with the first Anonymous--attending a graduate program at a real university after YU undergrad has been a real eye-opener for me. The contrast is astounding. YU should not charge the tuition of a top-rate university if it cannot even come close to approximating their services. Of course housing should be open for students when they need it! No, students should not have to bend over backward to suit the university! Some of the alternative 'solutions' you propose as a way of working out the author's summer housing dilemma are unrealistic and ridiculous. I may not agree with the way the author formulated all of her arguments, but I think her basic point is highly valid. I also think that the tone you take in this post is unnecessarily insulting and self-righteous.

Anonymous said...

people have to stop crying about the price of YU, you do realize that the tuition reflects the fact that RIETS is basically free and YU needs to duplicate everything because they have to have two of everything one for stern and one for YU.

given the black hole of money that is the CJF and the fact that most of belfer could be replaced with a computer does probably eat up alot of the money

Anonymous said...

Jewish Americans don't appreciate what YU has to offer. I personally had no issues finding a place when the dorm was closed. Made a lot of friends ,some for life while beimg invited to homes throughout the Metropolitan area and beyond. Life is about choices and flexibility. You don't have to attend YU and follow its housing rules if you don't wish to .YU is about acquiring wealth of Jewish studies and no amount of money can ever pay for it.

harry-er than them all said...

i dont know if their graduate programs are any different, but i do want to point out that from a university's standpoint, servicing graduate students is in their best interest. those are considered the money-making degrees (for the university).

There is always this question if universities are like regular organization in which they care about the customer service. I mean realistically, is anyone not going to attend because of customer service? They may not give later, but choosing schools initially i would argue not

harry-er than them all said...

I am still going to have to agree that kicking someone out friday night is a little extreme though.

@former YU student: i am just going to argue on a minor technical point- while it may not take an entire summer to clean out the dorms, they may need the access to all the rooms at the same time. They make rounds throughout the summer and while any actual room may take an hour (to clean and repair any damage) its not logistically feasible to have some rooms available on a floor to clean and others not.

Mouchka DARMON said...

someone who has a lack of intelligence is always full of vitriol. Email me directly if you want a discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mouchka, clean up your act and deal with critique of the idiotic piece you wrote. And do us all a favor and take your superior tone and your entitlement elsewhere!It's no brainer that the observer doesn't welcome whiny articles like the one you wrote.

Stern student

Chana said...


"someone who has a lack of intelligence is always full of vitriol. Email me directly if you want a discussion."

Look. You wrote an article in a public forum, the YU Beacon. I responded to you in a comment there linking to my post here, also a public forum. I see no reason to take this discussion to email. If you felt that was necessary, you should have been content to email the administration and leave the conversation there rather than writing a whole opinions piece on it. In short, if you can't take it, don't dish it.

Anonymous said...

Chana is certainly guilty of lack of intelligence. Thanks for the laugh, Mouchka!


Avital said...

Mouchka's response can be found here:


noam said...

i don't know anyone that studied at YU but i have to say i definitely agree with your post. i don't think it's necessarily connected with YU or specific things like being "jewish american" (like another commenter suggested). it's the same with students everywhere: when you enter dorms, there's a contract that tells you when you need to be out. you know that date and have known it for a long time. there is plenty of time to pack etc.
last summer i left my dorm and my family/previous flat is in another country. i just asked a friend to keep all my stuff and that was it.

YU or other universities are not responsible for the student's wellbeing, as nasty as it sounds. they/we know the rules, and we need to arrange for ourselves that everything goes as we plan. it's crazy that the author of that article hadn't even thought about hostels...!

Anonymous said...

Avital is a faithful servant of Mouchka's as usual.

Nicholas got all points covered well.

A great post.

Stern student

Anonymous said...

Chana who the hell do you think you are???
Coming to YU is not easy for a foreign student, so instead of criticizing her article and what she has to say you better try to have your own experience and then you would be able to speak.
We, foreign student, pay for the school, same way you do. But the difference is that we don't have family living around. And YES it is a Jewish School, so YES we are expending more help and understanding from the member of this University, and therefore we have the right to expect the school to allow us to stay 2 or 3 more days in an empty room! Tickets to go back home do no cost the same price as a train ticket! And Paris is not next door! So what if we need to stay 2 days? of course they are rules, but don't you learn in your mandatory Jewish classes that you have the obligation to help your fellow Jew?! So, by the name of rules you are forgetting the one given by G.d! Nice job!!!!

I would love to see you in the same situation. Come to France and I'll personally make sure that people, for the sake of stupid rules, will kick you out, and we'll see what you freaking American girl have to say!!!

OMG, it's a free country isn't it? So everyone has the right to criticize the place they are in, more so when there is something wrong about it!!! And YES the administration was completely wrong, but because they are "superior" we don't have the right to say anything? We will let them do their job without saying a word? NOWAY!!!! WE DON'T KICK OUT JEW WHEN THEY DON'T HAVE A PLACE TO GO!!!

Find yourself a better occupation to do besides loosing your time saying BS all over the internet!

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, miss spoiled little French girl, but " who the hell do you think you are???"

I know for a fact that Olivia lived in the Brookdale Hall and other Stern dorms and none of us ever heard her complain about the rules. She did have her "own experience". Your post makes no sense at all. Grow up!

Stern student

Chana said...

Dear Angry Anonymous,

Let me tell you who I am. I'm a girl who came from Chicago and knew exactly ONE other person in the entirety of Stern. She was also from Chicago. We did not room together. The rest of my grade was in seminary. I went potluck, rooming with three other girls completely at random.

While I am lucky enough to have family here in New York, and they are extremely loving and supportive, they do not live a hop, skip and a jump away. Nor are they Orthodox. I went to them for Shabbat maybe once in the entirety of my time at Stern.

What did I do? At first, I stayed in for Shabbat a lot. Then I made friends. I fended for myself. I stayed by houses of people I didn't know. In short, I had an experience very similar to Mouchka's. I just dealt with it differently.

Your assumption that I must be a lazy, spoiled brat because I dared to criticize your friend is wrong. You might consider apologizing.

Anonymous said...

Hahahhaahaa, Chana you make me laugh sooo badly, tks for that, at least!
Apologizing?!!! say it again, please so i can crack up!

I spent 4 years at Stern. I came by myself, i didn't know anyone, neither in school, nor in NY. And thanks to your precious suggestion I acted as a grown up, I spent most of my Sabbath at Stern, because I felt home, and comfortable, and i made a lot of friends...

Spoil?! are you talking about yourself? maybe you should use mirrors more often... ooo excuse me you might freak out by the reflection of your ugly heart! btw you should just change your profile pict, u should put ugly b****!

Now learn to help Jews and people around you. Instead of just attending your Jewish Classes you should actually learn what our Rabbis say, "kol hadavar ha sanou alecha al taasse le haverecha" and for your translation little brain, "what you wouldn't want to do to you, don't do it to others". Have more consideration before you find yourself in the same situation miss "grown up"!

Anonymous said...

Anon February 24, 2011 9:32 PM,
you are out of your mind!. Your midos and your English stink!

The Shipper said...

Anonymous and Mouchka,

Obviously you feel stongly about this matter, and are upset with Chana's post.

How about doing something positive about it? If you feel there is an unmet need, then set up an organization to help international students find a place to spend the holidays. Set up a website, similar to shabbat.com, where people can volunteer to host these students, and students can sign up. And make sure the international students at Stern are aware of their options.

This would truly be an act of V'ahavta L'raeicha Kamocha.

Anonymous said...

Chana, it might also be that some people cannot make friends and so it's hard for them to find a willing host. For example, I would be very happy to host students, but I would not bring the kind of trash that is posting here as anonymous into my house.

Anonymous, I understand that you are taking this personally because you see this as an attack on your friend Mouchka, as opposed to the substantive writing it really is. This does not give you a right to say such nasty things, nor does it give you a right to lie (and I find it hard to believe that you would have been accepted to ANY university with that English of yours).

Chana said...


Actually, that's exactly what they are doing. Please see the second article Mouchka wrote over at this link.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the point of the article that she is not interested in spending shabbat or yom tov by strangers? If so, how will setting up an organization or website to connect strangers with each other help?

Unknown said...

It is sad that you have to put down someone that has obviously been through a tough situation. Even if you can get hospitality, no where is as comfortable as home (AKA for her Stern). Why hurt the cause of people that are already down. Help a brother (or sister).

Anonymous said...

Abby, your conclusion is off target. Please reread both posts.

Anonymous said...

@5th Anonymous @ February 23, 2011 9:27 AM:
I would just like to point out that you complain that Jewish Americans do not appreciate what they get. The author of the article, Mouchka Darmon, is a student from France.

Lisa said...

Last year I came to Stern all by myself. I was a real freshman and I did potluck for roommates. I wound up rooming with all international students. I can see both points, but I have to side with Moushka. While I always welcomed my roommates over to my house during break, I could only host so many girls. My roommates had friends who spoke barely any english, had come on financial aid and had no money to spare for a hotel, and didn't have relatives or friends willing to put them up for more than a few days in the area. Some Shuls have "hospitality programs" but usually they ask you to pay and they fill up quickly. Traveling to get to such shuls can be expensive too. I don't think it was their fault they couldn't find a place to stay, nor do i think it would be asking the university to "bend over backwards" to not kick them out of their dorms for a couple of nights. There are rules, but that doesn't mean there can't be exceptions. If a student can't pay full tuition, sometimes they are offered financial aid. thats an exception. It doesn't cause the whole system to break apart, and it doesn't mean a student is acting "entitled" to think they deserve financial aid if they cant afford it. If a student really can't find a place to stay for a holiday or break, I think this would call for an exception as well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Whomever Sides With Chana's Thesis (that YU is a university and not a hotel and therefore has no responsibility in the matter),

You are wrong. YU is first and foremost a Yeshiva. Note how it is called YESHIVA University and not University Yeshiva. A yeshiva is founded on Jewish values such as hospitality and compassion, which were obviously not exhibited by the institution. (I find it quite hypocritical of you - Chana and co. - to change the status of YU as a yeshiva or university based on the convenience it serves to your current rantings.Intellectually dishonest at best. Cowardly at worst. YU prides itself on being different and not just another university. Is this just a PR facade? Is YU in fact different? And you, Chana, who obviously enjoyed the benefits of an institution that is more than just a university can honestly claim it is just a university?! You are full of inconsistencies young lady. Furthermore, your justification in the comments "Don't dish if you can't take" is truly disgusting coming from someone who considers herself a Ba'at Torah. Have you not hear of Ne'Kama? Or public embarrassment (which is the equivalent of murder)? Your "article" lost all intellectual credibility (and i'd venture you did as well) as soon as you made remarks attacking the author instead of her points. This piece was really disappointing as I had become quite a fan of yours... Until now. I hope she (Mouchka) has the compassion you so lack in giving you Mechela, assuming you actually muster the courage to ask.

I urge you to think-over the above,

One Fan Lost

Danny said...

Dear Everyone,

There are a number of arguments being made here:


1) YU is a Jewish University and therefore should be especially sensitive to its students needs.
2) YU is also selling a service for a lot of money and should provide something befitting that expense.
3) International students may have an especially difficult time adjusting to YU and the school should try to meet that need.
4) There should be some flexibility in the system to account for individual dilemmas people may encounter.
5) It is irresponsible for the University to throw a student out of the dorms who is in a dilemma without trying to work with them to solve it, especially on Shabbat.
6) Chana's article was overly harsh and critical of Mouchka.

1) The Gush Katif reference was wrong and exaggerated.
2) It is the student's responsibility to take care of himself or herself, this is part of being a mature adult.
3) The student has many other options (College Boxes, friends, shuls, hotels).
4) YU is a college with a schedule, not a personal home, and a student must abide by its rules.
5) An exception made for once student will become a slippery slope that makes organization difficult for YU.
6) By making an article publicly available, an author is implicitly agreeing to be freely critiqued.

These are all important points. Of course, students are warned long in advance about the university schedule. It is up to them to be ready to leave with a place to stay when the year ends. There are many resources available to help a student to do so. Furthermore, YU is an organization like any other which needs a definite timeline to function properly. Of course, the president of the university would never wish for a student to be kicked out of the dorms on Shabbat, but it was carried out by guards who were only doing their jobs. The burden of responsibility for that unfortunate event was on the student herself.

However, it is not much to ask for the university to allow for exceptions for certain individuals, especially international students. My home school gave international students a few extra days to move out at the end of the year, allowed international students to remain during shorter vacations. To do otherwise is an oversight on the part of the university and is irresponsible. Also, keep in mind, that while most students at YU are adults, not every student spent a year in Israel. I know multiple people who were still only 17 after the end of freshman year. A university has a certain responsibility for its students that are beyond those of the average organization. The university is partially responsible for the safety and security, and physical and mental health of its students. To claim that the university has no responsibility to make exceptions for students in extenuating circumstances is just as ludicrous as claiming that the student has no responsibility for exiting the dorms on time. Both share this responsibility because to evict a student prematurely is a danger to his or her safety. Exceptions can be regulated so that they don’t get out of hand, but to refuse to deal with the problem is irresponsible.

Finally, it is true that whenever a person publishes something, he or she is opened up to critique. Nobody has any responsibility to water down a critique for fear that the author will be offended by attacks to the ideas presented in the article. However, the critic’s rights go only this far. The critic has no moral right (distinguished from a legal right) to insult or embarrass the author by personal attacks. If the opinions presented in the article had been immoral or somehow dangerous, personal attacks may be warranted. But otherwise, it is wrong, and it is the critic’s responsibility to ensure, to the best of his or her ability, that this does not occur. Even more so, as a Jew, it is a Chilul Hashem and a violation of many important Mitzvot to insult or embarrass someone publicly. We must be careful not to use our words to sharply or carelessly.


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