Coach Halpert’s Firing: A Shame and Raises Questions about YU Decision–Making Process

I am proud to say that I am a good friend of Coach Halpert and his family. I am also very proud to be a YU graduate (Class of 1969), as well as probably the staunchest present long term fan of the YU Basketball team. I have attended at least 15-20 games (both home and away) or more per season for the last 30 years or so. YU Basketball is a great fulfilling part of my life and a large part of that is due to the Coach. I cannot stand idly by to see anything tarnish (i) a man I admire and respect, (ii) my team, (iii) my feelings and (iv) my memories.

The Coach is a great person, great role model and excellent basketball tactician. He is also an ideal mentor and spokesman for YU and the YU team and players.  As my friend and YU great David Kufeld said, “If there ever was a YU employee who earned the right to leave on his own terms it was Coach Halpert.”

I am very upset, mystified, troubled and not very proud of our President Richard Joel’s decision in firing Coach Halpert. Here is some of my reasons for being so upset and questioning of the motivation or the clarity of thought involved in this decision.

(1)  How do you as President of an educational institution effectively fire your institution’s basketball team’s Coach less than 14 months after that very same institution has just named the basketball court after that Coach?  Yeshiva University is the only University in history to fire the Coach after whom a basketball court has been named.

(2)  Anyone with any knowledge of college basketball or any team sports knows that you never decide to fire a coach before a season starts unless you have some other personal or non basketball related agenda or reason for such a decision. Here are some reasons why: (i) the YU team was bringing in maybe the best player produced by the Yeshiva League in Metropolitan NY in over 20 years.  (ii) Yeshiva could have won the national championship for Division III or (iii) won the Skyline Conference this season under guidance of the Coach.  Yet, still in the preseason, our President has predetermined the Coach must be fired.

There can be no valid reason for deciding to a firing of Coach Halpert in May, 2013.

One can only wonder what or who prompted this decision by President Joel.  The rumors are rampant on campus and around the Jewish world, from New York to Houston and from Houston back to New York, but why speculate? I will leave that to others.

YU’s President, by his latest act, has not sullied or detracted from Coach Halpert’s career or reputation built over a 45 year period as nothing President Joel could do could ever affect Coach Halpert’s amazing legacy. This was a very bad decision and a moment of shame at YU.

Aaron Kinderlehrer

Yeshiva College 1969, Yale Law 1973

 

Evan Zauder Letters: The American Justice System’s Defendent-friendly Process

The American justice system’s method for conferring justice is a two-step process.  In the first step in that process, the trial, a trier of fact, makes a factual determination on the basis of a review of evidence, presented by two contesting parties.  If the accused is found guilty of the crime he or she has been charged with committing, the justice systems proceeds to a second and fundamentally different phase, sentencing.  Sentencing is not a factual determination, which has already been made, but a value-based determination.  In it, the community considers what response furthers societal stability, communal notions of justice and would otherwise best serve the common good.  It is, by design, a defendent-friendly process.

For, at its core, American punishment is not “eye for an eye;” it does not merely mechanically translate moral outrage into a retributive action that best captures that outrage.   Constitutional prohibitions of cruel and unusual punishment speak to the proposition that there are other, counter-considerations, such as rehabilitation and other societal norms.  It is a balancing act, and, yes, redeeming qualities of an accused need to be weighed so that the community makes the best possible decision.

In that sense, criticism of Yeshiva University administrators, among others, for writing letters of support for Evan Zauder, who pled guilty to disseminating child pornography, among other things, is misplaced.  Assuming that what they write is true and in no way minimizes Zauder’s reprehensible actions, which he should be punished severely for, such individuals are actually playing an important role in the administration of justice.

That said, it is important to distinguish between promoting Zauder’s personal qualities on the one hand and downplaying his crimes on the other.  The former is important; the latter is reprehensible.  On that score, Dr. David Pelcovitz’s argument that disseminating child pornography is essentially a victimless crime is outrageous and shameful.  First, factually, what child pornography seeks to portray is at best statutory rape and, usually, far worse.  Moreover, that one could watch the abject exploitation of society’s most vulnerable and innocent members and not only not recoil, but enjoy it, speaks to a level of cruel depravity that at the very least suggests a strong criminal disposition and that such person is a “ticking time bomb.”  That a clinical professor of psychology could feel differently is mind-boggling.

Respectfully yours,

Yigal M. Gross, esq.

YC ’06; BRGS ‘07

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