Sexton To Depart After 2016, NYU Backtracks On Vacation Home Loans [UPDATED]

on 14 August, 2013

In a university-wide email today, the Board of Trustees acknowledged for the first time that John Sexton would not continue serving as President after 2016. The Board will begin a search for a new president within the next three years, and is committed to including student and faculty representation in the process. Additionally, the Board issued a recommendation ending university loans on secondary residences in an effort to provide greater “equilibrium” among all participants.

“John Sexton’s agreement with the University to serve as President extends to 2016,” the email from the Board’s Special Committee states, “and he has made clear that he will not serve beyond that.”

The announcement comes after a tumultuous year for Sexton, characterized by backlash from a disconnected faculty and overburdened student body. By the end of the spring term, more than half of the total voting faculty had voted no-confidence in Sexton’s leadership—including the majority of the Tisch, CAS, Gallatin and Steinhardt faculty. Organizations like Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP) have spearheaded protests against President Sexton’s expansionist administration, which it views as unresponsive to faculty involvement and ultimately detrimental to the academic environment. This culminated in a dismissed lawsuit last March, as well as a truncated hearing earlier last month.

In response to a controversial semester characterized by faculty dissent and student protests, the Board recommended more involvement of student, faculty (including non-tenured members), and administrators in creating more “equilibrium” at NYU. This included addressing the faculty mortgages program, as well as faculty and student representation in university decisions. Notably, the email recommends that non-tenured faculty be given representation in faculty senates, although that is at the discretion of each school.

President Sexton’s tenure was extended in 2009, when the Board requested that he could stay on to continue the university’s “remarkable advance.” The Board went on to say in today’s email that it remains “extremely satisfied with the direction and leadership of the University.” Yet at the same time, the level of communication between the normally-tacit Board and the administration is significant—as is the fact that unlike previous emails from the Board, this one came from the Special Committee rather than Chairman Martin Lipton. The Special Committee formed in response to the public turmoil last spring, so this email could be characterized as an official response.

The Board, while defending the mortgage program as rigorously monitored and not unique to NYU—Columbia has one as well—has decided to recommend further oversight, as well as limit the loans to primary residences. This came after the embarrassing outcry when the New York Times revealed that in addition to the generous mortgage package on primary residences, NYU also offers star faculty forgivable loans on secondary homes—such as President Sexton’s Fire Island beach house.

UPDATE: Lipton released a statement later today, reiterating the email’s points:

“The recommendations announced today by the Special Committee recognize the valuable input of faculty members and students. Among the highlights of today’s report to the university community are proposals to establish a new committee to improve communications between faculty and board members and to formalize the role of faculty and students in NYU’s future presidential selection process. We also announced a proposal to confirm home loans offered by the university will only be used in connection with primary residences.”

Spokesman John Beckman noted that while a specific timetable for faculty and student involvement in university policy had not yet been established, he anticipated the dialogue to begin shortly after the fall semester commences.