Is Richard Joel Incompetent or Just Covering Up?

By now the world knows that Yeshiva University (YU) hired a convicted child molester, Akiva Roth, as a Hebrew instructor. This was rank incompetence and a PR disaster. This comes on top of YU’s failure to keep their promise to produce an open report about the sex abuse in their HS by George Finkelstein, Macy Gordon and Richard (Ricky) Andron. Instead the report dwelled on their terrific new policies from preventing this from happening again.

It took them four days to announce Akiva Roth’s resignation. That is way too long for an institution in the limelight for sex abuse.  Their belated press release states:

After an extensive review of this matter, Mr. Roth is no longer employed by the University. To our knowledge, he has not engaged in any inappropriate conduct during his time at YU. While all appointments are subject to thorough background checks, the University erred in this case, permitting the new hire to begin teaching before the screening process had been completed. Yeshiva University will continue to re-evaluate its hiring processes and work to close any gaps in our procedure.

YU President Richard Joel was hired for his administrative and fund-raising skills. But he is also screwing that up. On September 9th, Moody’s downgraded YU’s bonds. The Forward’s reporting of the downgrade focused on the ongoing sex abuse litigation. However there was a lot more to it. Their summary states:

Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded Yeshiva University’s rating to Baa2 from Baa1 and kept the rating on review for downgrade. The rating action reflects the university’s weak liquidity with a full draw on operating lines of credit, expected covenant breach on lines of credit, deep operating deficits driving negative cash flow, and uncertainty regarding the outcome of litigation.

The kicker is the covenant breach on lines of credit. According to Moody’s:

This university is expected to breach a financial reporting covenant in its working capital lines of credit due to delayed publication of the FY 2013 audit. This covenant breach enables the bank, JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. (Aa3/P-1), to accelerate payments on $75 million outstanding on the lines of credit, which represent 38% of the university’s unrestricted monthly liquidity (reported as of 5/31/13). This will be the second year that the university anticipates publishing financial statements in February or March, eight to nine months after the June 30 fiscal year end and well beyond the 150 day covenant requirement. Yeshiva attributes these audit delays to implementation of a new financial data management system, which has been ongoing since 2011. The university did not receive a formal waiver from the bank regarding the financial reporting breach in FY 2012 and payments on the lines were not accelerated.

So, for two years running, YU has been almost a year behind schedule in completing an audit needed to keep their line of credit open. Joel may blame his predecessor for the sex abuse scandal in the high school. But Joel has been at YU for about a decade. He has no one to blame but himself for the inability to produce a proper audit on time. It reflects either gross incompetence or a desperate attempt to conceal the truth from his constituents and those who finance his operation.

It is time for Richard Joel to resign for the sake of the moral and financial health of Yeshiva University.

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8 thoughts on “Is Richard Joel Incompetent or Just Covering Up?

  1. This is absurd. YU could have screened him in 2 minutes by using online pay services to search to determine if he had a criminal record.

    I believe a simple search such as PublicData.com would have caught the criminal record.

    How could Roth have ever been hired?

  2. +++It is time for Richard Joel to resign for the sake of the moral and financial health of Yeshiva University.+++

    no doubt.

  3. There’s yet another allegation about a teacher at Stern (part of Y.U.). According to Adkanenough.com , Y.U. has been repeatedly warned about this person and has not taken any action. Maybe Y.U. should pay an independent detective agency to run a check on all of its employees to assure parents and students that there are no other molesters working there.

  4. What is more sickening about the Roth case, is that it took so long to fire him AFTER he was outed. They were afraid of being sued by him. Once again, money first, child safety second.

    They are shameless.

    In their “investigation report” which is one of the biggest cover ups of a cover up ever, their “independent lawyers” call their new policies the “gold standard.” How long did it take for a molester (in Reb Mattisyahu’s infamous words) to “slip through their fingers”?

    Marcie Hamilton in her scathing denouncement of the so called report, pointed out some holes in the policy regarding suspected abuse that were wide enough to drive an MTA school bus through them. I was surprised she missed the fact that according to the Jewish Week, and a reasonable reading of the report, the policy currently “advises” students to report if they are abused to the YU’s lawyers who will vet which cases are reported to the police.

    This is in fact an even worse policy than the Agudah who pay lip service to the idea that if you are a victim or an eye witness, you should report to the police without asking anyone, rabbi, lawyer, or anyone. (They only say to ask a rabbi if it is your child who tells you he or she was molested, arguing that you are not allowed to believe your own child). YU says that even if you yourself are the victim, or are a witness, such as in the case of Assistant Coach Mike McCleary who saw Jerry Sandusky raping a boy in the Penn State shower, you need to first report it to their “office of general counsel” who will decide whether to call the cops or cover it up until it s exposed by the Forward, Frum Follies or Adkanenough.com.

    Is there anything we can do to help the lawyers of the YU victims use publicity to put pressure on the judge to let the case go to a jury?

    What about using the grand jury route by reporting criminal fraud and child endangerment to the cops? The same argument used in the civil suit to get around te statute of limitations, should apply to making a police report about child endangerment and failure to report, both misdemeanors hat four top officials rom Penn State are being prosecuted for.

    The YU/RCA/OU axis of evil, is giving Aguda/Lakewood/Satmar a run for their money.

    In the case of the Charedim, much blame is placed on the cultish koolaid drinking of the community members. Modern Orthodoxy does not give anyone as much power as a Chassidic Rebbe or a Litvish Rosh Yeshiva with present day “Daas Torah”. This debunks one more excuse for allowing child sexual abuse.

    It has nothing to do with religion at all. Nothing to do with other issues that have largely been blamed for the incredible apathy about child rape: lack of psychological education, awareness, understanding, denial, lack of leadership, etc.

    As Marci points out in her book, as well as in countless interviews:

    When it is powerful large interests of the money and the prestige of institutions run by adults, against vulnerable children’s lives and safety, there is never much of a contest. Parents, have also bought into the institutions heavily and identify with them, whether religious, secular, governmental, educational, whatever.

    There are only a relative handful of parents out there who will stand up for their children against the communal institutions they belong to and have put their faith in. Most parents are literally asleep at the wheel.

  5. Rabbi Dr. Lipner states that, “the policy currently ‘advises’ students to report if they are abused to the YU’s lawyers who will vet which cases are reported to the police. … YU says that even if you yourself are the victim, or are a witness … you need to first report it to their “office of general counsel” who will decide whether to call the cops or cover it up ….” This is unfair, and a gross misreading of the policy, if we are talking about the same document, i.e., “Yeshiva University High School Anti-Harassment Policy,” “Appendix A” to the “Report Of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP Regarding Allegations Of Abuse At Yeshiva University And Its Affiliated Schools,” dated August 26, 2013. http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/files/report.pdf (FTR, I’m a former lawyer and I have never had any relationship with either YU or Sullivan & Cromwell.)

    Although the “office of general counsel” is to be informed of all complaints, the policy makes clear that a victim or his/her parent or guardian is free to go to governmental authorities, and that all YU/YUHS employees are mandated reporters who must report reasonable suspicions of abuse and require no permission from anyone before doing so. The general counsel’s office may choose to report a matter to the police on its own, but its role is to advise the administration concerning its internal investigation of policy violations (which include harassment, bullying and sexually-related conduct that need not rise to the level of a crime), and the discipline of policy violators. It has no role in deciding whether a victim or witness reports abuse to the police or to child-protection authorities. Let me go through the policy, and perhaps Dr. Lipner can point out what I am misreading.

    “Students, parents/guardians, and any other concerned non-YU employees aware of a violation or suspected violation of this Policy should [note: “should,” not “must”] tell any member of the YUHS faculty or staff with whom they are comfortable speaking about the violation. … The faculty or staff member … is obligated to report the suspected violation to the appropriate YUHS administrator … for investigation.” (p.9)

    “Promptly upon learning of a possible violation of the Policy, whether as a victim, witness, or
    recipient of such information from someone else, YUHS and YU employees and volunteers must
    report the possible violation to one of the following people: 1) Their supervisor, 2) A Guidance Counselor, 3) Dean of Students, 4) Assistant Principal, 5) Principal for General Studies, 6) Head of School/Principal. If anyone other than the Head of School/Principal is notified, that person must promptly inform the Head of School/Principal of the report. Once the Head of School/Principal is notified of such a report, he or she must notify the YU Liaison to the High School and the Office of the General Counsel at YU. If the report involves the Head of School/Principal, the Head of School/Principal should not be notified, but rather the report should be made to the YU Liaison to the High School and the Office of the General Counsel at YU and the latter will apprise the President of YU of such report.” (p.9)

    “All YU and YUHS employees … who have reason to believe that a violation has or may have occurred are under an obligation to promptly report this information or suspicion …. A
    ‘reason to believe’ may be predicated upon being told directly or indirectly … overhearing talk … or observing behavior which gives rise to a suspicion that a violation has occurred. The obligation to report is mandatory regardless of whether the alleged violation involves another YUHS or YU employee, volunteer, an employee of a contracted service provider, or a student, as the victim or the offender. When in doubt … always err on the side of caution by reporting what you know or suspect.” (p. 10)

    However, if the alleged violation constitutes sexual abuse or assault, YUHS and YU employees, volunteers and employees of contracted service providers must immediately report it to one of the following: 1) Head of School/Principal, 2) YU Liaison to the High School, or 3) Office of the General Counsel at YU. If the Head of School/Principal is the person notified of such a report, he or she must immediately notify both the YU Liaison to the High School and the Office of the General Counsel at YU. If the Head of School/Principal is the subject of the report, the matter should be brought directly to the attention of the YU Liaison for the High School AND the Office of the General Counsel at YU.” (p.10)

    Additionally, if a student or parent/guardian is not comfortable reporting a violation to someone within YUHS or YU, he or she may contact a confidential YU hotline, or outside consultant Lisa Friel. If a student or parent/guardian wishes to remain anonymous, he or she may contact the YU Liaison to the High School, the YU’s Office of General Counsel, or Ms. Friel. (p. 11)

    “After a report is made, the YU Liaison to the High School and the Office of the General Counsel at YU, in consultation with the Head of School/Principal will direct that an investigation be conducted by appropriate individuals ….” (p. 13) The Office of General Counsel is to be involved in investigating all reports of harassment or abuse, but there is nothing sinister in this; as there will likely be questions of legal obligations, liability, and procedural fairness.

    But the Office of General Counsel does not “vet” complaints to outside authorities. “Nothing in this Policy is intended to limit the options of any person who believes that he or she has been subject to unlawful harassment or discrimination. Such a person may at any time in addition to participating in the YUHS Anti-Harassment Policy procedures pursue his or her rights with an outside agency, governmental entity, or legal counsel.” (p. 14) For conduct amounting to child sexual abuse or assault, the policy is unequivocal: “Any sexual contact between a student under 17 and an adult is a crime and if it involves such behavior between a YUHS student and a YUHS employee, volunteer, employee of a contracted service provider, or other adult at YU, it will be reported to the police.” (p.7) There is no suggestion that a student who believes he or she has been the victim of a crime should first consult with YU’s administrators or lawyers before going to the police.

    As for witnesses to abuse, such as Assistant Coach Mike McCleary in the Penn State case to which Dr. Lipner refers, YU’s policy discusses New York’s mandated reporting law in detail, clearly stating that all school officials are mandated reporters with a legal duty to call the New York State Central Registry when they have “reasonable cause to suspect” that a child has been abused, a duty that is not fulfilled by informing a supervisor. “Consulting with a supervisor at the School before making such a call, however, is allowable, and indeed advisable, but the consent or approval of such supervisor is never a requirement for making a call to the SCR.” (p. 15)

    The policy might be faulted here for encouraging such consultation before calling, saying that “YUHS and YU administrations are always available to … offer advice and support, and be present should a call to the SCR need to be made.” (p. 16) Such consultation creates an opportunity for improper pressure not to report if the evidence arguably falls short of “reasonable cause to suspect” abuse. Nevertheless, the policy is clear concerning an employee’s legal obligation to report reasonable suspicion of abuse to the SCR, and also requires the employee to make an internal report “immediately,” regardless of whether the SCR was called. (p. 16) This serves as a check on improper pressure, by making a record of the basis of the employee’s suspicions so that others can evaluate whether SCR should have been called.

    No reasonable reading of YUHS’s policy would permit what occurred in the Sandusky case cited by Dr. Lipner, where a Penn State employee witnessed the rape of a child, told his superior, assumed he had done his duty, and the rape was covered up. A YUHS employee witnessing the rape of a child would have had an obligation to intervene (p. 8), then to call SCR, and immediately report the incident to the Head of School/Principal, YU Liaison to the High School, or the Office of the General Counsel.

    I’m no expert, but this looks like a reasonably well thought-out policy. It gives concrete examples of improper conduct, clearly tells employees that they have a duty to intervene to prevent abuse, and a duty to report their reasonable suspicions. It provides for multiple channels for complaints, so that an abuser in a position of power, like former principal George Finkelstein, is not in a position to block complaints against himself. By requiring investigation of complaints and involving YU’s lawyers, abusers can be recognized and fired before years of administrative indifference to multiple abuses accumulate into a time-bomb of multi-million dollar liability. YU can be justly criticized for leaving the door unlocked far too long, but this policy looks like a reasonable good-faith attempt to protect its students from abuse and itself from future liability.

  6. Hi Kevin. Thank you for responding. I will address your concerns about the legalistic/Talmudic “interpretation” of the policies (“must” vs. “should”, etc.) that YU has now published in another post.

    Before I do, I need to point out just how irrelevant this particular avenue of discussion is to all the children who have been and continue to be at risk of being molested under the watch of Yeshiva University.

    The allegations of failure to report sex crime suspicions to the authorities are very, very easy to prove. It is enough to point out that there has yet to be a single instance in which YU did report a case to law enforcement, or did publicly warn the community. Were this to have happened, or if it ever will happen, we would all know about it.

    That means that not only in the past (1940’s 50’s 60’s 70’s and 80’s) were no cases of alleged abuse handled appropriately, but even in the 90’s and until this very day, there has not been a single instance in which YU can point to having given the proper response to such an allegation or to a suspicious situation.

    When Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services (who also failed to back Markey) was exposed by the Jewish Week in 2011 as covering up failing to report child sexual abuse, they denied it and issued a statement affirming their policies which they claimed were to report all abuse. Rabbi Blau argued that Ohel is “endlessly using legal loopholes and excuses,” and stated the obvious: “We will know there has been change when they start reporting.”

    We are still waiting….

  7. Subject: Public Speaking being demolished at Yeshiva University rabbi dr. bernhard rosenberg send to friends, former students and your parents.

    Check out this video on YouTube:

    Driving to teach Public Speaking at Yeshiva College this past wednesday I received a call stating that the speech department is closing at YU. I was the first speech major at Yeshiva College in 1969 and together with Dr. Abraham Tauber of Blessed memory created the first speech department at Yeshiva College. I have taught at Yeshiva College in the 70’s, 80’s and in the last 4 years. What is not working at Yeshiva College? Why is enrollment down? Why are students unhappy and leaving? According to my observations, shiurim are too large and Rebbes are unable to develop close relationships with students. How much do the administrators and officers make? You would be astonished. Why fire talented adjuncts while keeping full teachers who are not evaluated and cannot teach? Consider the YU nepotism which gives untalented people jobs. There seem to be a lot of people running around doing nothing and getting paid. The cafeteria food is terrible and costs too much. Students are overworked with religious requirements which make it impossible to devote enough time to secular work. This has to be reevaluated. Finally, where is the YU spirit of Torah Umada? Where is our pride?
    We are not Harvard, Yale, or Columbia. Let us be YU. A college without art, music, speech, drama, is not even an advanced high school.
    Rabbi DR. Bernhard Rosenberg

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