NYU Dorm Changes Worry Observant Jews


For the sake of promoting “diversity,” New York University housing policies will no longer allow incoming freshman to choose a roommate based on religious compatibility, raising concern and anxiety among Sabbath observant students. Roommate assignments, said NYU, will be primarily based “on geographic diversity” rather than personal choice. Upperclassman, however, may choose to have roommates of the opposite sex, even if they share a religion.

According to a letter from Marc Wais, NYU’s vice president of student affairs, NYU Housing will be matching incoming freshman with the goal of increasing “global and inclusive campus community.” Religion will not be considered. Some students “may face conflict” but that “could ultimately be conducive to personal growth.”

In one letter obtained by The Jewish Week, an incoming freshman, currently on a gap year in Israel, wrote to the housing office, “I was particularly fond of NYU because it is a liberal university where students can make their own decisions independently,” though that no longer will be the case for a Sabbath and kashrut-observing Jew in the dorms. “Walking into a room on the Sabbath where there is music playing from a computer, posses a threat and challenge to my religion. I had hoped that in my room, there would be an aura of religiosity but in the halls, classes, and socially, there, I would have a diverse circle of friends.”

While religious concerns will be ignored, for the sake of personal growth, if not political correctness, boys and girls (sophomores and older) will be allowed to choose a roommate of the opposite sex. “Gender-neutral housing is bound to be a crowd please,” said a letter from the housing department.

The reason, said Tom Ellet Sr., associate vice president of student affairs, is simply because “treating students as adults to make life choices in their living environment in a place like NYC is fitting.”

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU, e-mailed that Bronfman leaders, in consultation with parents, met with senior representatives of NYU’s departments of housing, admissions, student life and diversity, communicating the Jewish concerns. While the dorm policy continues to be debated, students hoping to stay together were advised to select the Weinstein dorm as their first choice because “students who select Weinstein as their first choice are highly likely to get it because it is considered, relative to the other NYU dorms, less popular.”

Additionally, “the Bronfman Center has a very good relationship with a large realtor in the East Village and would readily refer parents.”