Last year ended in a frenzy of no confidence votes but this semester is off to a quiet start. In fact, the most noticeable conversations regarding university president John Sexton’s future stem from the administration’s proactive actions. Before the semester even began, the Board of Trustees and John Sexton sent two separate emails, discussing governance, financial aid, and other developments within the university.
In the first email, sent mid-August, the Board of Trustees divulged the actions of their Special Committee, a new commission built to hear and voice the concerns of the NYU community. According to the email, the committee developed multiple plans for action after meeting with seventeen university stakeholders. While the email touched upon many subjects, including student and faculty participation within governance, two developments stood out. First, the university will no longer grant loans for secondary homes. Second, John Sexton will leave the university when his current agreements ends in 2016.
Sexton echoed his departure within his own email, sent a week before the first day of class. Writing in a strikingly positive tone, Sexton outlined two undertakings: improving governance and bettering financial aid.
After proclaiming old methods of university governance to be inadequate, Sexton reiterated recent efforts to examine and better the university-wide decision making process. Specifically, the Board of Trustees adopted the Faculty Senator Council’s five recommendations for developing shared governance. In addition, Sexton recognized the Special Committee’s existence and advisements. A slew of hyperlinks followed, connecting to various reports on the university’s global presence, and spatial and technological needs.
A discussion of financial aid proceeded, with Sexton insisting struggles with financial aid stem from the NYU’s low per student endowment compared to peer universities. To boot, Business Insider named NYU as America’s most expensive college. The emailed mentioned the 134% growth in the financial aid budget between 2002 and 2012, but figures on the rising cost of tuition were not provided. The email then introduced the “Momentum Campaign,” a new initiative to raise $1 billion dollars for scholarship within the next six years.
Sexton continued by deeming upcoming construction as benchmarks; however, he made no mention of NYU 2031 plan by name. To the dismay of many NYU and Greenwich Village community members, NYU 2031 lays out the university’s expansion within New York City. Battles against the NYU 2031 plan eventually landed in court.
Throughout the email, Sexton created a tone of togetherness by using the word “we” rather than “I.” For example:
As we shape the NYU of tomorrow, we must work to develop these mechanisms. We must work together, acting with good will and without rancor. If we do so, I believe we will succeed in creating new governance structures that will position NYU well to meet the challenges and opportunities of the decades ahead.
While the recent emails may hint a bettered responsiveness and cooperation of the administration, the NYU community remains divided.
Last year, faculties of the College of Arts and Science, the Gallatin School of Individualize Study, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Tisch Asia, and Tisch School of the Arts passed separate motions of no confidence regarding Sexton’s Leadership. The Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff also voted no confidence. In contrast, the NYU School of Law passed a motion of confidence, while professors of the Silver School of Social Work shot down a vote of no confidence. These votes, open to wide participation within each entity, do not oust or impeach the president, rather express strong approval or disapproval of his leadership.
Further responses took place on a smaller scale. The School of Medicine Faculty Council, the chairs and institute directors of the School of Medicine and Langone Medical Center, and the deans, chairs and directors of the College of Dentistry and College of Nursing passed resolutions supporting Sexton. Conversely, 39 departments and divisions, including the Stern School of Business and CAS’s Economics department, opposed the NYU 2031 Plan.
Perhaps the summer gave everyone a bit of time to cool off, or perhaps we’re in the eye of the storm. As of now, it’s hard to tell. No matter, keep checking NYU Local for the latest administrative news.