Students, Faculty, and Administration Engage President at Town Hall Meetings

Nov 4, 2003 — In two town hall meetings on November 4 at the Midtown and Wilf campuses, President Richard M. Joel addressed faculty, students, administrators, and staff on an array of issues important to university life and the community at large.

The sessions, the first of their kind for YU, underscored the president’s stated desire to promote an environment that’s open, direct, and evolving.

At both locations, the president opened with a brief overview followed by 40 minutes of questions and answers that covered, among other things, campus renovations, student life, community outreach, faculty support, and the university’s fiscal stability.

“So many of you have been generous in teaching me and guiding me as I build my new administration,” the president said. “I believe it is important to be accessible to the student body and faculty. I want to create a partnership with you to set goals.”

He repeated that theme in the Wilf session and expressed his hope to use the town hall forum “as a platform to build relationships with my office.” To that end, he announced he will have evening hours in which students can sign up to meet with him. In addition, he will host regular “brown bag lunches” for university staff, faculty, and students and more student shabbatonim.

Anat Barber, a senior and president of the SCW student council, inquired about support for a new mission to Israel. In response to a concern by senior Shoshana Hulkower that Stern lacks community leadership training, President Joel said he is working to create a “cadre of graduate fellows,” a year of service in which seniors would work at YU after graduation. In remarks uptown, he added that such fellowships would afford individuals opportunities to impact university life and broaden their perspectives before pursuing doctorates. One possible initiative would be a graduate seminar on Jewish institutional leadership, he said.

Responding to a similar question raised by Ari Miller at the Wilf Campus, President Joel added that the Max Stern Division of Communal Services (MSDCS) can help students breathe life into Torah Umadda and live up to their destiny.

On longstanding faculty issues, President Joel acknowledged that some professors were overworked and underpaid. Morton Lowengrub, vice president for academic affairs, working with various deans, has begun exploring best practices for recruiting and retaining both junior and senior faculty.

President Joel said his administration was developing a strategic plan to which all segments of the university and the Jewish community will hopefully contribute. “We need your support to make this a reality, not just for YU, but for higher education,” he said.

On YU’s nearly $1 billion endowment, the president praised the work of the senior administration in building a strong fiscal foundation “that enables us to have money to dream the dream.” He cautioned his audience, however, that success and growth demand continued fiscal prudence, even as new academic and structural challenges emerge.

President Joel urged his audience to “keep my feet to the fire, and push me all you can to work together to have more richness in the curriculum and to make YU a place of intellectual fervor and ferment.”


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