Professor Marci Hamilton Gives YU Abuse Report a Failing Grade

YU Pres. Richard Joel &  Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

YU Pres. Richard Joel &
Pres. Emeritus Norman Lamm

When Yeshiva University (YU) first promised a report on sex abuse in its high school, Cardoza School of Law Professor Marci A. Hamilton gave them the benefit of the doubt. They promised an open report on par with those of their peer institutions and that seemed good enough to her. Professor Hamilton’s opinions matter because she is a nationally recognized authority on child sexual abuse, particularly when it involves church-state relations. Now that the YU report is out, Hamilton has given it a failing grade and red penciled it from beginning to end.

She delivered the verdict in Justia.com with a September 5th article, “Sullivan & Cromwell and Yeshiva University Issue a Disappointing Report on Child Sex Abuse That Is Short on Facts and Long on Public Relations.” She spares little in her detailed, legally focused analysis. After providing some context she gets to the heart of the matter.

It [the YU Report] provides a four-paragraph (that is not a misprint) summary of “Findings.”  Readers are told that “multiple incidents of varying types of sexual and physical abuse took place at YUHSB [and at other schools comprising the University] during the relevant time period. . . including, in some instances, after members of the administration had been made aware of such conduct.”  This is little more than a continuation of the cover-up that apparently already occurred

Hamilton shoots down the argument that pending litigation is preventing YU from sharing more details.

The reason given for the document’s lack of actual reporting is that there is still pending litigation by survivors of abuse against YU.  True enough, but as YU has argued in court, the claims that are pending, are pending in New York, where the statutes of limitations for sex abuse are among the shortest in the country, which puts virtually all, if not all, of the claims beyond the statute of limitations.  So, what the heck do they have to hide?

Since the bulk of the document is taken up with YU’s revised policy for reporting abuse Hamilton critiques it as well, starting with their elaborate, multiple, overlapping chains for internal reporting.

This is so convoluted, it is almost funny.  But not quite.  This hard-to-follow path is guaranteed to have employees throwing up their hands in confusion, or worse, it is likely to result in reports that get lost in the cracks of the bureaucracy.  There are just too many variables here.

More insidiously, she notes that YU takes a legalistic stance limiting reporting to those mandated by NYS law, a standard which falls far short of reporting all reasonable suspicions. She takes the report to task for not noting the deficiencies in the state law and advocating improvements. Instead, she points out that YU is walking in the steps of the Fisherman of Rome.

Rabbi Zweibel of Agudah and Cardinal Dolan "We have so much in common!"

Rabbi Zweibel of Agudah and Cardinal Dolan
“We have so much in common!”

Again, I was reminded of the Catholic bishops’ stance on mandatory reporting.  The Pope has issued a mandate that they report abuse to the authorities—if the law requires it.  But if the law does not, there apparently is no such requirement.  And the bishops have lobbied to avoid reporting, so the Catholic Church reporting policy is classic doublespeak.

Hamilton closes by returning to the unaddressed emotional violations at the root of this crisis and report.

I have never read a document of this genre with less verbiage speaking directly to the survivors.  It is, in a word, cold.

It is sad that a Christian professor of law had to upend the unctuous moralistic Torah pretenses of President Richard Joel who spoke of teshuvah (repentance). Of course Joel knows that authentic teshuvah requires admitting wrongs, and seeking to make one’s victims whole.

ShofarIn the end, I believe YU will retreat from its stance, not out of moral passion but financial necessity. The bond raters have already downgraded YU because they expect the scandal to damage YU’s credibility with donors. But it will take a while for this leadership, which has hardened its heart, to get the message.

On Rosh Hashanah we recited Unetaneh Tokef with its chilling recitation of the consequences of our misconduct. But then there is a grace note: teshuvah, tefilah, utzedakah mavirin et roah hagezeirah (repentance, prayer and charity can alter the severity of the decree).

In YU’s case I fear that there isn’t a prayer of repentance until the charity shortfall delivers a severe decree that the leadership cannot ignore.

NOTE TO READERS: If you are serious about understanding this issue, take the time to read Professor Hamiltons full article. For other coverage of the YU Report see my post, “The Negative Reviews of YU’s Abuse Report Are Coming In” which lists all other reactions which I found noteworthy. I will continue to update it as more reactions are delivered.

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One thought on “Professor Marci Hamilton Gives YU Abuse Report a Failing Grade

  1. “[T]here isn’t a prayer of repentance until the charity shortfall delivers a severe decree ” Take a bow, YL. And may the earthly court (the voters of Brooklyn) deliver a just judgment today.

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