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Sex story engulfs YU Beacon

It’s not your typical college sex scandal. There are no accusations of molestation, inappropriate faculty-student relationships or date-rape charges.

Instead, the precipitating incident was the publication by a student-run newspaper of an article purportedly by a female student describing a one-night stand.

But this is Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women, an Orthodox institution where the boys’ and girls’ campuses are separated by roughly 10 miles, and the story’s publication prompted an uproar that has resulted in the withdrawal of funding for the newspaper, the Y.U. Beacon – a decision made by students.

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The decision came in a meeting Wednesday involving the editors of the Beacon, the student body president and secretary, and three members of the school’s administration.

“We were trying to explain our side of why we thought the article was important,” one of the editors, Simi Lampert, 22, told JTA.

Before the meeting, Lampert and her co-editor had removed the article from the Beacon’s website after it generated largely negative and condemnatory online comments. The first-person account of a sexual encounter had appeared in the paper’s literary section under an anonymous byline and the headline “How Do I Even Begin To Explain This?” The literary section of the newspaper publishes fiction and non-fiction; it’s not clear under which category the article belonged.

The stir the article’s publication caused highlights the ever-present tension at Yeshiva University between more conservative students who are interested in keeping the school more a yeshiva than a university, and those who want the school to more closely resemble the typical college experience.

The decision to pull funding from the publication, which was started less than a year ago, was made entirely by the student council; administration officials were present at the meeting but acting only as mediators, participants said.

Lampert criticized the student council’s decision. She said she received many personal emails, text and Facebook messages of support after the article’s publication and that it’s unfair to muzzle the voice of the Beacon when more conservative elements of the student body are well represented by other publications at Stern College, such as The Observer.

The Beacon was started in January by Lampert and two other Stern students who had written for the Observer but had had articles or ideas axed because they were deemed inappropriate. Lampert said she had wanted to write a story about drinking in college but that her editor axed it because she said it would have reflected poorly on Stern.

She and her co-editors decided to publish the sex essay, she said, to “addresses something that we don’t often talk about in the Orthodox Jewish community:” premarital sex.

“In my circles, it’s talked about,” Lampert went on. Though it may not be as common as it is on secular college campuses, she said she’s “not surprised if I hear some of my friends are having sex.”

The publication of the sex article does mark the first time that the Beacon has found itself in trouble with readers. In its first issue, the Beacon published a story titled “The Porn Star Paradox” about a students’ feeling of identification with a pornography actress who used to be religious.

For more on this story, stay tuned.

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