Gallatin faculty passes second vote of no confidence

May 3, 2013

The full-time faculty of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study has passed a vote of no confidence in NYU President John Sexton. Based on the statement below, 23 voted in favor, 21 voted against and 6 abstained.

“We, the full-time faculty at The Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University, are deeply concerned about the direction our university has taken under the leadership of President John Sexton with the support of the Board of Trustees.

As a faculty, we are committed to fulfilling the longstanding mission of New York University, best expressed in our motto, “a private university in the public service.” Central to this mission is the imperative to create a rich and vibrant intellectual community of research and teaching that serves to educate a diverse student body while also being committed to thoughtful, engaged citizenship in the city of New York and the world beyond it.

However, we are gravely concerned that this mission is in jeopardy. The university now seems committed to maximizing its expansion, both globally and locally, at the expense of its core values. Its path of expansion has sacrificed academic integrity by devaluing faculty oversight and fair employment conditions for all faculty, has sacrificed student diversity by choosing growth rather than increased financial aid, and has sacrificed good citizenship by foregoing collaborative relations with both faculty and neighbors.

The fundamental reason that the university has been able to take this direction, we believe, is that a top-down management structure and style discounted the voice of the faculty in setting priorities and making decisions. A lack of transparency in decision-making, and a failure to communicate, has compounded this fundamental problem of governance, and the result is an alienated faculty, large sectors of which are angry and demoralized. Rather than a community jointly engaged in resolving differences constructively, the university’s leadership has produced polarization and rancor.

We are committed to this university and believe that this moment of crisis is an opportunity for the university community to critically reflect on our path, and to renew our historic mission to serve the public interest. This requires a more robust system of governance involving greater faculty involvement in setting priorities, a stronger commitment to student diversity through affordable education, fairer employment practices for all who work here, and more respectful university engagement both locally and globally.

A no-confidence vote is a serious matter and we do not take this step lightly. But we have no confidence in the current leadership of New York University to lead it out of this crisis and to guide it in a better direction.”

In response to this vote, NYU spokesman John Beckman issued the following statement:

“While the resolution passed, the majority of faculty did not vote to support the measure. Higher education is undergoing enormous change and John Sexton is an innovator – this can elicit division in any community, and certainly has at NYU.

Regardless of whether the votes are positive, such as the Law School’s, or negative, such as today’s, John Sexton – who enjoys the trustees full and unequivocal backing — will stay focused on supporting NYU’s research and teaching missions, on sustaining NYU’s extraordinary academic trajectory, and on continuing to take steps to enhance faculty consultation and involvement in University decision-making.”

Chair of the Board of Trustees Martin Lipton also issued a statement in response to the second passed no-confidence vote:

“The Board of Trustees fully supports John Sexton, and has full confidence in his leadership.

NYU’s great story is its transformation from a regional university into one of the world’s great institutions of higher learning.  That has accelerated during John’s tenure, and we look forward to the University’s continued progress under his stewardship.  In recent weeks, I and some of my fellow Trustees have been meeting with faculty groups and other constituencies.  It is clear from our dialogue that the innovative steps taken to move the University have not always been easy, and more could have been done to communicate with faculty and involve them in the decision-making affecting the University’s strategic direction.  But we think important steps have already been taken, and additional improvements to our governance systems that emerge out these series of meetings will go a long way towards addressing faculty concerns.

We want the faculty of the Gallatin School, which has just completed its vote, to know why we view John’s leadership with such confidence.  Since John became President of NYU in 2002, the University has thrived by almost any measure. Undergraduate applications are up 45 percent, freshman SAT scores have climbed, and financial aid has increased by 134%.  NYU has moved upwards in national and international rankings, faculty recruitment and retention have been strong and successful, and initiatives have been started in new fields of study.  The university’s finances are stronger, fundraising has set records, long-range planning has been set in place, and important new investments have been made in academic facilities.  And, uniquely among its peers, NYU has been redefining what a university is through the creation of its global network, which has allowed for unprecedented new educational and academic activities around the world for students and faculty alike.”

 

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