Sexton fields student questions at final town hall

April 15, 2014

Hannah Luu/WSN

During the last town hall of the semester, on April 14, students asked NYU President John Sexton about both ongoing and new initiatives.

Students from NYU Divest, a club aiming to pull investments away from oil and gas companies, voiced their concern about the university’s investments in fossil-fuel companies. As part of a demonstration against these investments, the group unrolled a petition on a large piece of paper with over 1,400 signatures.

Sexton said NYU does not directly invest in fossil-fuel companies and recommended that NYU Divest bring this issue to the University Senate, which could then recommend the project to the Board of Trustees.

“We invest in investors, not in companies,” Sexton said. “What I can try to do is coach you on how to succeed.”

Tisch senior and member of NYU Divest Saleem Gondal said NYU Divest will follow the procedure advised by Sexton in an effort to find the fastest way to change.

“Climate change does not just affect the 1,400 people who signed the petition,” Gondal said. “It’s reflective of a global crisis.”

Other students raised questions about the expansion of study-away opportunities for students in the Polytechnic School of Engineering. Sexton said all schools are invited to express their interest in the global sites, and programs are offered according to that interest.

“More programs are to come, and a way to get that is to push the school to adopt them,” Sexton said.

A student asked about university rankings and how NYU fares. Sexton said several factors contribute to college ranking and the results can mislead people to think there is only one right university for all students.

“We shouldn’t allow ourselves to think there is a simple set of norms used to assess a variety of universities,” Sexton said. “It would be impossible that NYU is right for everyone. The important thing is the trend of improvement that has remained constant at NYU.”

Another student brought up the issue of incarceration and education and asked for the university to remove questions about criminal history on its application because these questions discriminate against low-income applicants and people of color.

Sexton said he would make a change if he could. However, he asked for more information about the official NYU process to remove the question.

A question from a virtual follower asked Sexton to respond to the “I, Too, Am NYU” campaign held at NYU to support students of color. Sexton said he supports the campaign, and he has started talking with student leaders of NYU Ally, a group that has partnered with the “I, Too, Am NYU” campaign.

CAS senior and President of NYU Ally Alain Balan said he was pleased by Sexton’s support and hoped that the university as a whole would endorse the campaign.

“It’s a good start that the president is willing to publicly state his support,” Balan said. “We need the university to back up his word.”

Sexton ended the town hall by encouraging students to look after each other in this stressful time of year.

“There are three weeks left in the semester,” Sexton said. “Don’t be afraid to stop and ask people if they are OK. We are all there for each other.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 15 print edition. Caren Doueiry is a staff writer. Email her at news@nyunews.com

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