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A Message to the NYU Community from the Board of Trustees

From: Martin Lipton- Chair- NYU Board of Trustees

Date: Friday, September 18, 2009

Subject: A Message to the NYU Community from the Board to Trustees


 
A key responsibility of a board of trustees is ensuring the successful future of the institution it guides. With that in mind, the NYU Board decided to request that John Sexton serve as our University's President until at least 2016. We are delighted to report that he has agreed to do so.

In making its request to John, the Board focused on the University's exceptional progress over the past 30 years and specifically on its remarkable advance during his time as President. The Board focused as well on the need to ensure that the University has powerful and imaginative leadership in the coming period, a time-frame that is sure to be challenging for research universities in general and for NYU in particular. With John as its President the Board is confident that the University is capable of securing and advancing its position among the great universities not only of the United States but also of the world.

The University's academic mandate for the coming period was well established last year through the Framework 2031 process, a process which articulated the fundamental choices confronting the University and the criteria for making strategic investments (see here); the Board ratified Framework 2031 at its June 2008 meeting. The parallel space planning process has outlined a corresponding pathway for providing the physical infrastructure that will allow NYU to continue its academic advancement, including the completion of the approvals needed to secure use of additional core space on the University's property south of Washington Square Park (the Washington Square Village and Silver Towers sites) as well as measured growth in the surrounding neighborhood and more remote locations(see nyu.edu/nyu.plans.2031/).

John and his leadership team are ideally positioned to carry forward these mandates and to continue building the necessary financial foundations for them. For its part, the Board will work with John and his team to strengthen the financial condition of the University (including the Medical Center), so that the University's academic progress will not be jeopardized by changes in the broad economy or the specific economic factors affecting private higher education and academic medicine. In addition, we expect John and his team, even in these times, to begin preparation for our next major fundraising campaign; in this regard we are heartened by the fact that, in a year (2008 - 2009) when many institutions experienced a precipitous drop in fundraising, our University managed to raise over a million dollars a day, every day (and that it did so on the heels of completing, in August of 2008, the most successful completed fundraising campaign in the history of American higher education).

In addition to these general directives, the Board, in approving Framework 2031, endorsed a set of more specific priorities as we enter this next phase of our development.

First, our prime objective must be the pursuit of greater and greater academic excellence. This means, specifically, we must strive continually to offer the finest possible student experience for undergraduates and graduate students and to create an environment where research and teaching can flourish. We recognize that this entails a commitment to building the finest faculty possible, a faculty both devoted to its students and to quality research.

Second, as was emphasized in Framework 2031, the pursuit of academic excellence must build upon the unique assets possessed by our University. Clearly we must build on our innovative spirit and on our University's rare ability to anticipate change and adapt to it. And, equally clearly, we must continue to nurture existing centers of excellence at the University. Moreover, we must build upon our University's location in New York City, its unique network of overseas academic centers, and the extraordinary opportunity presented by the development of a Global Network University anchored in New York and Abu Dhabi. Finally, the remarkable progress of the NYU Langone Medical Center, the merger with the Polytechnic University, and the successful launch of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World provide additional opportunities for the University.

Third, as we move forward we must recognize the necessity to make choices. We will not be able to do everything we wish to do. The Board, of course, relies on John, the Provost and the Deans in consultation with the faculty in making these choices. It is our role only to insist that strategic choices be made at each step along the way, just as they were made magnificently in the implementation of the Partners Plan to grow the Faculty of Arts and Science. We pledge to support John and his team as they make these choices, even as we (as fiduciaries for the University) must insist that they be made.

Fourth, our plans always must include a recognition that, as a tuition dependent university (even in the best years for the endowment and for fundraising, they together provide only 10% of our expense budget), we must scrutinize carefully every expenditure, making the strategic choices necessary and restraining growth in tuition in so far as possible. John and his team have almost miraculously managed to find efficiencies in the University administration that have permitted greater investment in our academic enterprise. The Deans are engaged in a similar exercise in the Schools. We must be constant in this effort and in the commitment to find greater and greater resources for financial aid.

We would be remiss if we closed without noting an additional task we have set specifically for John. Increasingly, he is seen as one of the leading spokespersons for higher education at the local, regional and national level. Skepticism about higher education in general, and American private higher education in particular, has become widespread in recent years. It is in the country's interest for there to be strong voices articulating the role that higher education can and should play in contemporary society; the Board believes that, perhaps better than any other university president, John can lead this discussion about the importance of higher education and how the sector can best address the policy challenges ahead. Such leadership is not only needed for the sector but places NYU in the small circle of institutions that are active in shaping the important debates of our generation.

Clearly the agenda that we have set for the years ahead is an ambitious one which will require not only dedication but also enormous skill and creativity. We are delighted that we have strong academic and administrative leadership to guide us through this period. And we are even more delighted to share the news that John will be staying to see it through.

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