William Berkley To Replace Martin Lipton As Board Of Trustees Chair

William Berkley will succeed Martin Lipton as chair of NYU’s Board of Trustees.

In an email to students this week, Lipton announced Berkley’s election as chair-designate, a 16-month transitionary position ending in October 2015, when Berkley will become chair in full.

Lipton, who has chaired the board for 16 years, will remain on in a lesser capacity, as one of the board’s 65 acting members. “I am getting too old and have served too long,” Lipton said of his retirement in a New York Times this April.

Berkley, the chair and CEO of insurance holding company W. R. Berkley Corporation, has a long history with the university. A graduate from the Stern School in 1966, Berkley joined Stern’s Board of Overseers in 1987, the NYU Board of Trustees in 1995, and the NYU Langone Medical Center. He has been a Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees since 2004. Read more…

NYU Must Claim Responsibility For Labor Conditions In Abu Dhabi

Al Mubarak and Sexton.

In the wake of reports that NYU Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island campus was built by systematically maltreated workers, NYU has systematically attempted to distance itself from taking responsibility for the abuses themselves, outsourcing the blame to the contracting companies supposedly under the jurisdiction of the UAE government, as well as to companies in charge of supervising the labor itself.

Two days ago, the Times reported that in a memo to NYU’s trustees (many of whom are Wall Street heavyweights), Sexton asserted that the Saadiyat campus “was built with the construction contractors working for the Abu Dhabi development entity building it, not directly for N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi itself (unlike the operational contracts for providing food, transportation, public safety, etc.)”

In response to the Times’ initial report of abuse, President Sexton emailed a statement to the entire NYU listserv which stated that “with regards to those men and women working on assignments directly contracted to NYU Abu Dhabi…there have been no questions raised about compliance with the high standards we set.” Read more…

[UPDATED] Workers Mistreated At NYU Abu Dhabi’s Newly Finished Campus

Last month, NYU Abu Dhabi announced in a press release that its lavish, state-of-the-art, 450,000 m2 campus on Saadiyat Island had finished construction. Yet as the New York Times reported yesterday, the human costs were immense, and possibly unprecedented for an academic institution. The Times’ Ariel Kaminer investigated the labor conditions at NYU Abu Dhabi and found physical abuse, illegal recruitment fees, withheld passports, squalid living conditions and debilitating pay droughts, with minimal oversight from the university.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about labor abuses at NYU-AD. The Guardian’s report on migrant workers is a stunning indictment of the system of labor in Abu Dhabi, where satellite versions of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums are currently under construction on Saadiyat Island. Yet this newest article, in focusing on NYU’s explicit role in labor exploitation, takes the university to task.

To build the university where Bill Clinton will speak this week, laborers are paid less than what was contracted, are refused their own passports and bank cards, and sleep a dozen to a room. When attempting a strike, workers were arrested and beaten by the police. This is par for the course in Abu Dhabi—strikes are illegal and brutally suppressed—but it is a stunning contrast with NYU-AD’s commitment to academic freedom and university core values.

Read more…

Local Stops: H.A.G.S. From Everyone Here At NYU Local

-The joy of finishing finals may be equivalent to the happiness felt by beagles seeing grass and sunshine for the first time ever.

-What’s cooler: This NYU hat or the “NY Train Project” by Adam Chang?

-Serious Eats ranked fast food vanilla shakes, because apparently Serious Eats like to drink boredom from a straw.

-Basics bitches run this city.

-There’s no such thing as free lunch – or free money for that matter.

The school year is over! H.A.G.S.

Photo of the Day by Caleb Savage

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Three]

Earlier this year, John Leguizamo played a game of half-court basketball with a group of kids. A bidder won this chance to shoot hoops with the movie star through the Faculty Against Sexton Plan’s online auction, supported by a multitude of celebrities who call Greenwich Village home.

“I came to support the faculty of NYU,” said Leguizamo. “We don’t really have a lot of heroes in the modern world, and I found what they did so courageous and brave.”

The playful game took place on a basketball court in the Cole Sports Center, NYU’s gym that was built during the first year of the Reagan administration and to this day lacks air conditioning. On the other side of a thin divider, New York University’s basketball teams took on Washington University in St. Louis. Cheerleaders, pompoms and all, rushed into the court between plays, and a Bobcat, the school’s mascot named after it’s library catalog, danced and flailed its arms. On the side of the bleachers, a pep band performed appropriate pump-up songs throughout the game.

Putting down their instruments, the musicians returned to a quiet presence, often reading a textbook or scribbling in notebooks cast aside before the song. Other than the forced presence of the home school, the crowd’s loudest cheers and jeers came from the green-packed bleacher of fans who came to support the visiting school. NYU is not a sports school and never pretends to be so. Jokes about the football team, which seized to exist in 1953, seep into tours for prospective students and adorn the bookstore’s merchandize. Read more…

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part Two]

Part Two of Three. [Find Part One here.]

The original NYU 2031 plan, as proposed in 2010, would bring radical redevelopment to the Northern and Southern Superblocks. Created through the process of “slum clearance,” in the 1950s and now primarily owned by the university, these large slabs of land sit in the heart of Greenwich Village, just above Houston Street, and house hundreds of faculty members and their families.

The proposal squeezed twisted, boomerang-shaped buildings into Washington Square Village, wiping away playgrounds and storefronts. A massive structure of stacked towers, referred to as the “Zipper Building,” would replace the Cole’s Sport Center.  The grocery store at the corner of Bleeker and LaGuardia disappeared, and a new high-rise would take its place.

When revealed, the overall plan profoundly shocked faculty and community members, and helped catalyze the atmosphere of resentment and distrust that lead to the censures against John Sexton. In May of 2012, during the midst of budding contention and after receiving the city’s approval to build on the superblocks, Sexton created the University Space Priorities Working Group to evaluate the university’s space needs. Delivering the group’s charge, Sexton only attended the first meeting; afterward, the group made its conclusions and recommendations available to Sexton and the public at the same time.

Faculty members, sprinkled with a few student and administrative representatives, comprised the Working Group, which over the course of 18 months proved that a diverse and largely independent group could arise within NYU’s structure. Read more…

Artificial Intelligence, Sans ScarJo’s Sultry Voice, Coming To NYU

When IBM Watson announced its partnership with seven universities to allow students to work with the artificial intelligence technology of Jeopardy!-winning fame, it was easy to imagine students training and conversing with a robot for a semester. In reality, Watson is far more complicated than its quiz-whiz robot reputation — and NYU’s plans to incorporate it into academics are, too.

Watson is not a robot, strictly speaking, but rather an artificially intelligent computer system and supercomputer that can answer questions posed in human language. At these seven universities, it will be accessible through a cloud. Watson was first developed in 2005, when Paul Horn, then head of IBM Research and now Senior Vice Provost for Research at NYU, signed off on the next big project after IBM’s success with Deep Blue, the first computer to win a chess game against a reigning world champion.

Earlier this year, IBM created a separate business unit called The Watson Group, which is commercializing the technology for seemingly countless applications. For example, Watson technology’s first commercial application is in the field of healthcare, partnering with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Watson navigates health data in order to provide relevant information to doctors and nurses. Read more…

Local Stops: Brooklyn Dudes, Staten Island Wins, And Badass Fifth Graders

Former Local EIC Myles Tanzer has the new lowdown on the Jill Abramson debacle.

The Observer has put out an illustrated guide to Brooklyn guys.

Finally, Staten Island wins something!

A fifth-grader raised $200,000 to clean up the Gulf oil spill. What have you done lately?

Photo of the day by Caleb Savage

Lost Confidence: NYU’s Culture Within Expansion And Controversy [Part One]

Part One of Three

Shining through a mosaic of large windows overlooking the West Village, light from the sunset placed a spotlight on John Sexton, making his cheeks grow redder and his hair fade to a softer gray. His hand crossed his forehead from time to time, allowing the president of New York University a better view of the student standing at the microphone to ask a question.

“He’s trying to get away from the mic,” prodded Sexton, who encouraged the student at the center of the room to describe NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. “Tell them what it’s like growing up in Dhabi, and what it’s like being a study away student here in New York. They don’t think this is a place where they’re study away students.”

Shy at first, the student depicted the assets of the university’s campus in the Middle East, before recounting some of its flaws. Using a mixture of receptiveness, kindness and lawyer wit, Sexton guided the conversation from start to end, just as he did with anyone else posing a question.

“Send me an email. Give me your ideas,” said Sexton as his conversation with students drew to a close. Squeezed into Sexton’s schedule, Town Halls allow students to engage in frank conversation with their controversial president. The event was scarcely attended though, and Sexton needed to head over and teach his class on his own book, Baseball As A Road To God. “Send me an email — john.sexton@nyu.edu — and I promise you, you won’t be dissatisfied in the effort you put in sending it.”

Read more…

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The McChicken

I had just passed my colloquium. It was an unseasonably cold day at the end of March (global warming, am I right?) but I was feeling victorious. I wanted to do something that would mirror my triumph over the much-dreaded colloquium (basically the defense of a thesis in the form of a two hour conversation with a panel of three faculty members) that all seniors in the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at NYU must complete in order to graduate. I needed to do something that would match my level of elation. That something was going to McDonald’s and buying myself two McChicken sandwiches and eating them in Washington Square Park, despite the cold (see above photo).

Many would chastise me for consuming such foul (literally fowl) food, but McChickens make me happy. I often call my predilection towards the McChicken sandwich a guilty pleasure but I always wonder to myself “why should I feel guilty about a thing that makes me happy?” That’s the big question. Should you feel guilty about your guilty pleasures if they make you happy?

My vegan friend thinks I should. We were once out one night at some bar in god knows where and I got a little tipsy and insisted that we just call it a night so I could go home, get my McChicken and go to sleep. As I was telling her my plan for the rest of the night, she had been sipping on her vodka martini, and she did a spit take where she found out I would be stopping before eventually going home. “You would really eat that garbage?” she said to me. “Do you know how inhumanely McDonald’s treats their chickens?” Fire was coming out of her mouth at this point. The truth is I didn’t.

Read more…