5 Orthodox Yale students pay tuition but may still sue

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WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (JTA) — Five Orthodox Jewish students are far from ending their fight against Yale's housing policy.

While the students will pay their tuition fees under protest, they "will not be waiving their rights of potential legal action," Nathan Lewin, a Washington-based attorney who is representing the students, said Tuesday in a telephone interview.

The students risked expulsion if tuition fees weren't received by September's end.

Lewin said talks with Yale were continuing to head off a lawsuit against the school for violating the students' religious rights.

The dispute arose after the students requested exemptions from Yale University's housing policy that requires all freshmen and sophomores to live on campus unless they are married or over 21 years old.

They asked for a waiver of the $7,000 residential fees, which are included in the tuition costs, because they believe living in dorms where both sexes easily mingle would not conform with their religious convictions.

One student, Rachel Wohlgelernter, got married this month in a civil ceremony, three months before her Jewish wedding ceremony, in an effort to obtain an exemption.

Lewin, who visited Yale last week, has proposed that the students pay the full amount of the residence fee, but that the money be used for alternative housing that Yale deemed suitable for the students.

"The kids don't want Jewish housing," said Lewin. "All they want is respect for their religious convictions. That's a minimal request."

Yale maintains that residential living on campus is an "integral and important" part of attending the school.

"We've made it clear to the students that we're ready and willing to talk to them about it," said Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman. "There's nothing in the works besides that standing offer."

Not all of Yale's Orthodox students find the housing requirement in conflict with their beliefs and religious practices.

"A point that seems to have been missed is that there is a significant Orthodox community living on campus at Yale and thriving there," said Evan Farber, a junior, who is president of the Young Israel House at Yale. "There's a kosher kitchen, which draws 200 people for dinner every night, daily services, the whole shpiel."