A group of Yeshiva University students are suing to force the college to recognize their LGBTQ club — claiming the group has been repeatedly blocked.
Two former and two current students filed the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit Tuesday alleging the university has denied their requests to officially register a gay-rights group as a student club three times in just 2019 and 2020.
The students argued that not allowing such a group to be officially recognized alongside the 116 other student clubs is discriminatory and violates New York’s human rights law.
In February 2019, the school took the unusual step of overruling the group’s formation despite the student council approving it, the suit claims.
YU said it wouldn’t allow a group to form that has the terms “gay” or “LGBT” in their its title — noting that this type of club “would ‘cloud’ the university’s ‘nuanced’ position on the treatment of LGBTQ students,” the suit charges.
So the YU Pride Alliance — also a plaintiff in the suit — was formed unofficially in September 2019 at a protest march supporting LGBTQ students, the court papers say.
And under the new name, which met the school’s criteria, the group applied again in January 2020 — but the request was denied in the spring 2020 semester and again in the fall 2020 semester, the court filing claims.
Even before their bids to form the club, the university has a long-running history of denying other students’ requests to form an LGBTQ club — going back to 2009 with the Tolerance Club, the court papers allege.
The suit says the denial is unfair because it “deprives” students and members of “the important benefits enjoyed by YU’s 116 other recognized student organizations” — including funding for club activities, use of facilities for club meetings, ads for club events in school emails and on bulletin boards, and inclusion in the club fairs for recruiting incoming students, the court documents say.
“Beyond depriving students of access to these tangible benefits of student clubs, YU’s refusal to recognize the YU Pride Alliance sends a stark and painful message of rejection and non-belonging to its LGBTQ students and their allies,” the suit charges.
Students could end up feeling isolated and unwelcome because of the lack of resources and camaraderie, the court papers say.
“YU has inflicted and is continuing to inflict grave dignitary, emotional, and psychological harms on these college students, and indeed on all its students, who need belonging, safety, community, and support,” the court documents allege.
The students are asking a judge to intervene and to force the school to recognize the YU Pride Alliance.
Plaintiff Tai Miller, a former student from the class of 2020 and current Harvard Medical school student said in a statement, “The administration’s persistent rejection of the LGBTQ club made me feel ostracized and unwanted by both my undergraduate community and, more broadly, from my faith community.”
“New York City law is open-and-shut in this case, and Yeshiva University knows it,” plaintiff lawyer Katherine Rosenfeld said in a statement. “YU may not discriminate against students because of their sexual orientation or gender.”
The university said in a statement: “Our policies on harassment and discrimination against students on the basis of protected classifications including LGBTQ+ are strong and vigorously enforced.”
“Our Torah-guided decision about this club in no way minimizes the care and sensitivity that we have for each of our students, nor the numerous steps the university has already taken,” the statement continued.
“We are actively engaged with our students, faculty and rabbinic leaders to facilitate productive discussions with an eye toward understanding and embracing diverse perspectives.”