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

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.

Comments

    Share Your Thoughts

    9 Comments

  1. Ernesto G. says

    Boy, I can only hope Mr. Lipton can offer Sexton a more “competitive” package than his current paltry $1.5 million/yr salary, second home/villa on Fire Island, upcoming $2.5 mill.”length of service” bonus and, last but not least, his $800,000/yr retirement parachute … for life.

    I’d hate to see a Yale or a Stanford steal our visionary leader away before his term is done!

    On a more serious note, is it worth just asking the trustees, point blank, at some point whether they understand that the problem lies not in how many conversations are had but who these conversations are WITH? It is the “who” at the other end (an echo chamber of lawyers, branding experts and real estate moguls who constitute our Board of Trustees and Sexton’s corporate cheering section) that must change. Or are the 5 unprecedented Votes of No not a clear enough message on this count?

    Three more years of this catastrophic “leadership”? I don’t know if our university — and its student body, the most indebted in the entire nation, with tuition, room and board now coming in at $61,000+ and rising — can survive another three MONTHS.

  2. eric says

    Ernesto,

    Catastrophic leadership? What are you smoking? The university’s profile has changed from a commuter school to a world known research institution. That and if someone’s fundraising brings in a million a day, 1.5 million a year looks well earned to me.

  3. says

    @eric – in 2002, we were 32nd in USNWR. Last year, we were….32nd in USNWR! The “commuter school to powerhouse” argument doesn’t stand up to evidence.

  4. Ernesto G. says

    Eric, I’m not smoking anything, although, given the financial free-for-all that currently passes for leadership at our university, I sometimes wish I was. First, can we give the whole miraculous transformation of “commuter school to powerhouse” argument a rest? Just long enough to allow everyone to look through the smoke screen at the more sobering facts? I sure do hope that undergraduates paying $64,000/yr. in tuition, room and board — making NYU hands down the most expensive private or public university in the entire country — aren’t mortgaging their future on a commuter school. And I don’t know too many commuter schools with a $2.8 billion endowment, although this number has in fact dipped by 5% in the last year alone and our trustees are on the verge of blowing $4-6 billion on an academically unjustified, commercially driven, two-decade long expansion plan in the Village. A commuter school we certainly are not. I agree.

    But please tell me if you, as a student or parent, are fine with paying $64,000/yr. — more than the Ivies, mind you — for a school that, as Ben notes, was 32nd in the US News and World Report when Sexton ascended from the Law School Deanship to President (without a vote, lest we forget, as was appointed by Lipton & co.) and, more than 10 yrs. on and a $18,000 (!) rise in annual tuition later, is … 32nd today. Forbes, meanwhile, had us ranked 97th last year. Hardly Columbia status, to say nothing of the Princetons and Harvards. As for Sexton’s parroting of the “international powerhouse” moniker… Well, he has certainly made us into a global BRAND, I would never dispute that. All the same, we are #43 in the U.S. News & World Report international rankings, just ahead of the University of Peking. And #27 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, just ahead of the Univ. of Toronto.

    Now, Eric, if you are willing to trade sky-high tuition and obscene amounts of loan debt for rankings and reputation, take a good hard look at the latter rather than listening to the administration’s hard sell. If you still believe it’s a fair deal, all the power to you and I wish you the best of luck. I know what choice I will be making when my kid turns 17.

  5. Michael Beckert says

    You both have valid arguments.

    I’d like to add that rankings, as well all know, are totally flawed- in so many ways.

    However, they are interesting, especially when it comes to NYU.

    In individual rankings, i.e best business schools, art schools, psychology programs, writing programs, medical schools etc.

    NYU is always ranked very high- top 20, if not top 10.

    32nd overall is actually quite good, considering hundreds and hundreds are ranked-
    however, it is weird that NYU isn’t ranked in the top 20 overall, if SO many (seriously look at the major/school specific rankings) of its individual schools/programs are.

    There is one thing that holds NYU back from being ranked that high overall, and it’s the cost/financial aid. It really is.

    So yes, I do side slightly, with Ernesto, in that NYU’s price and it’s financial aid need to be fixed.

    The departure of Sexton, the university’s sudden (but also forced) honesty in terms of how it spends its money, etc. are all signs that NYU is finally taking notice that it needs to make changes in pricing, financial aid, etc. So I, personally, am optimistic.

    :)

  6. Serena Malik says

    Michael, rankings are not everything, but in this case they’re not flawed. NYU is a average school for rich kids who can’t get into the Ivy league. If it weren’t located in NYC no one would choose to attend.

    NYU has HUNDREDS of programs and a FEW are in the top 10 (finance, philosophy, italian, etc). Most of our programs are ranked 25-40. NYU is not in the top 30 colleges in America for a good reason: we are simply not a top university. Location is what drives students and faculty here rather than academics. Hate to say it but JSex it right: It’s all about Marketing – getting dumb rich kids to take the bait.