DATE: MARCH 2013
TO: THE NYU COMMUNITY
FROM: Martin Lipton, Chair, NYU Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees unanimously and strongly supports President John Sexton, and believes in his strategic direction for the University.
In a time of great challenges to higher education, John Sexton has become a nationally recognized innovator while, at the same time, maintaining excellence. It is clear to us that NYU is a great success story. It is also the case that higher education faces pressures that call for leadership that can enact change where needed, and that is why the Board has passed a resolution strongly affirming our support of John and NYU’s current course (right).
The Trustees see the fruits of effective leadership by John Sexton, and they bear repeating: We have seen a strong, thriving, advancing university during his tenure as president. We note a 12% increase in applications for freshman admission in this year, the sixth straight year of record applications. We note the College Board’s findings that NYU was at the very top of its list of most-searched-for universities. We see the improvement in the academic qualifications of entering freshmen during John’s presidency, the increase in retention and graduation rates, and the expansion of financial aid. We observe and are enormously proud that the Times Higher Education magazine, in its recently released global rankings, took particular note of NYU's swift rise, and the very significant improvements in other rankings as well. We see a very successful record of fundraising-- essentially $1 million per day, day-in-and-day-out since John Sexton became president. We note improvements in the finances, in the budgeting, and in the physical facilities of the University over the last 10 years, as well as the successful handling of the de-merging of Mt. Sinai’s and NYU’s medical centers, and the dramatic turnaround at the NYU Langone Medical Center. We see the increase in tenured and tenure-track faculty, particularly in the arts and sciences, and a marked improvement of our ability to attract top scholars. We observe that during John Sexton's presidency, two tenured faculty members have won the Nobel Prize, a third Nobel-winner has been recruited, three mathematicians have won the Abel Prize, and the first NYU student in many years won a Rhodes Scholarship, among many other prestigious honors to faculty and students. We note the opening of NYU's first new science building in over 20 years, and the return of engineering to NYU. We see -- by dint of his role in important educational organizations and commissions -- that John Sexton is clearly considered a leader in the field of higher education. We believe that the global network created during his presidency has offered new academic opportunities to faculty and students (twice as many of whom study abroad as did 10 years ago), distinguished NYU among U.S. universities, and attracted the commitment and support of sophisticated partners. And we note that all this has occurred while John continues to teach undergraduates every semester.
To be sure, we are attentive to the vote by arts and science faculty, and conscious of what it says about sentiment in that school. But we also take note of the vote of support by the Medical School faculty council; the letters of support for John from department chairs at the School of Medicine, the College of Dentistry, and the College of Nursing; the letter of support from the Alumni Association’s officers; the support for John’s leadership among the University’s deans; the popularity John enjoys among students; and the many affirmations we hear about John’s leadership from those outside the NYU community.
The vote – although supported by fewer than half the tenured faculty in FAS – is a disappointing outcome, in part because it does not seem to take account of NYU’s progress over the last decade, in part because it does not take heed of the major challenges U.S. higher education faces now, and in part because FAS has been the beneficiary of significant investment during John’s time, which led to manifest improvements for that school in terms of the recruitment of new faculty, the establishment of new areas of inquiry, and the creation of new facilities.
While we cannot and will not compromise the ultimate authority of the duly constituted Board of Trustees in the governance of the University, we agree with President Sexton that the voice of the faculty in shaping the University must be heard and play a significant role. And we agree that the time has come to consider ways in which that voice may be made even more meaningful. Thus, as President Sexton has urged us to do, we will embark upon a conversation about how to do this. Over the next two months, a committee of the Board consisting of the chair and the six vice chairs will meet with various stakeholders in the NYU community to listen and to seek the best way forward in the evolution of the University’s governance -- both University-wide and within schools -- enabling NYU to act decisively in a challenging higher education environment while also taking account of and benefitting from the input and involvement of all its constituencies, particularly the faculty.
NYU’s progress over the course of the last three decades has been enormous, but there is much to be done, both in meeting our aspirations and in addressing the challenges that are emerging in higher education. It is the Trustees’ hope that we commit ourselves as a university community to finding ways to move forward productively and collaboratively.