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Proposals and Plans on Governance, Voice, and Communications

TO:  The University Community
FROM:  The Special Committee of the NYU Board of Trustees
DATE:  August 14, 2013
RE:  Proposals and Plans on Governance, Voice, and Communications


 
In April, the NYU Board established a special committee that met with seventeen groups of NYU stakeholders and spoke with countless other individuals. The stated purpose was to consider how we might “create better ways for the constituent voices at NYU to be heard” and to improve the University’s procedures and processes for governance and communication. After reviewing the input received at the meetings, the Special Committee submitted a progress report to the full Board on May 31, outlining the Committee’s sense of the concerns that had been raised. On June 19, we circulated that report to the University community.

As we indicated then, the Special Committee and the Board have been working with the University Administration to develop proposals that would be responsive to the concerns of the community.

We are writing you now, in advance of the start of the fall semester, to share some initial plans and to advance some proposals under consideration, so that we can begin a dialogue early in this academic year.

We should start by joining in President Sexton’s view, as expressed in a memo last January, regarding faculty involvement in the University:

Faculty – in their roles as scholars and teachers – are at the heart and soul of the research university. NYU will never reach its full potential unless its faculty has a central function and, as importantly, feels it has a central function in shaping its directions.

With that underlying assumption as a foundation, the challenge for all of us is to find a balance that will enable the Administration to operate efficiently in resolving the broad spectrum of complex issues and in launching the timely new initiatives necessary for a large research University while, at the same time, incorporating the expertise and opinions of the faculty during both the development and implementation of initiatives.

Last year, the Administration undertook important initial steps to address the appropriate balance. This memo endeavors to use the input from our meetings and discussions with NYU stakeholders to project the next steps.

Creation of a Joint Committee of Trustees and NYU Stakeholders

As a starting point, it is vital that we establish mechanisms through which the Board and the constituencies at NYU can communicate with each other. The Board will benefit from the added viewpoints as it considers policy options; the stakeholders will benefit from understanding the deliberations of the Board. With this in mind, we propose to establish a Joint Committee of the Board with membership to be filled by board members and representatives of the key constituencies in the NYU community. The committee will meet several times each year and will report regularly to the Board on its discussions, with particular focus on the community’s viewpoints and concerns regarding the University’s policies and directions.

We will be asking the schools, through their individual, established representative bodies, to choose faculty representatives who will sit on the Joint Committee.[1] The Joint Committee will also include the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senators Council, as well as the chairs of the Student Senators Council and the Administrative Management Council. While we believe that this will provide the Joint Committee with a good, representative cross section of University constituencies, we consider the composition of the Joint Committee to be a pilot that the members of the Committee and the NYU community can assess at the end of next year.

Faculty Participation in the Presidential Search Process

The Special Committee notes that the Board is extremely satisfied with the direction and leadership of the University. John Sexton’s agreement with the University to serve as President extends to 2016 and he has made clear that he will not serve beyond that.

With that as a backdrop, sometime within the next three years the Board will begin a search for a new president. That process will include faculty and student representation on the search committee. It is premature to establish the precise procedures for the search, but a clear role for the faculty and the student communities is something to which the Board is fully committed.

Loans and Housing Assistance

As the Special Committee met with various faculty groups, a topic that frequently came up is the policies and practices relating to housing assistance by the University and its schools. Accordingly, we will address the home loan programs here.

The primary purpose of the home loan programs is straightforward: Recruiting and retaining the best possible faculty (98% of these loans have gone to faculty); offering the advantages of home ownership to our faculty; increasing the availability of university apartments for faculty rental. We are not unique in this regard. Other universities – particularly ones in expensive metropolitan areas – similarly assist their faculty. Since these are universities against which we frequently compete for faculty, we often find ourselves in the position of having to address the housing assistance that recruits are receiving at the universities from which they are coming.

To these ends, in recent decades the University and its schools have developed a number of housing options, including loan programs. Some of the loans are designed to assist families living in university rental housing to move to home ownership, thereby making their University apartments available for others; other loans are tailored to specific needs in the context of recruitment and retention.

The first housing assistance mortgage program was created in 1991 by the Law Center Foundation (which supports the Law School) in part because the University was unable to provide University housing beyond what it had already allotted to the Law School. This housing assistance program was designed to attract and to retain high-caliber faculty in a very competitive market in which the Law School was competing not only against other law schools but also against top law firms. The program was very successful and was an important component in the Law School’s rise to the top echelon of law schools nationally.

The University’s housing assistance mortgage program was initiated in the mid-1990s. The program has been used to enable faculty to move from NYU rentals to homes they own and to recruit and to retain faculty. Again, these programs have been very successful, with over 140 faculty residing in homes they own.

The Board continuously monitors these programs and updates them regularly to reflect changes in the competitive landscape. The latest updates to the program that have been discussed by the Trustees for formal adoption by the Board at the next meeting are:

All mortgage assistance that the University or any of its schools (including the foundations supporting them) must be approved by the Compensation Committee of the Board; all are reviewed by the Provost’s office to ensure that they are in line with our academic mission; and all must conform to current University standards, including the restriction that they be used only for primary residencies.

As usual, the Compensation Committee of the Board will continue reviewing the mortgage practices. The Administration will engage the Executive Committee of the University Senate in this process.

 
Beyond the issues that directly involve the Board, there is work to be done in assuring that all the constituent voices at NYU are afforded the proper opportunity for consultation in the direction of the University:
 

Selection of Membership on University-wide Faculty Committees

We believe that the faculty’s representative bodies at the University and school level can play an important role in the constitution of university-wide faculty committees. Therefore, the Special Committee would propose that, going forward, at least half of the membership of university-wide faculty committees should be chosen by representative faculty bodies.

Resolving the Issue of Representation for Full-Time,
Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

The Special Committee joins in President Sexton’s longstanding view that the non-tenure-track faculty should be granted the right to be represented in NYU’s representative bodies. We appreciate that this has been an issue of debate for some time, and we are cognizant that the Senate Committee on Organization and Governance has been in discussion with the non-tenure-track faculty with regard to representation in the Senate. We are respectful of those deliberations and simply request that an agreement on representation be reached in time for the Board to enact the appropriate changes to the University bylaws at the Board’s June 2014 meeting.

It is similarly our view that the schools should allow non-tenure-track faculty to be represented in the respective school councils and bodies. This is a decision that the schools themselves will make. As they work on the issue, we commend for their consideration the basic observation that all University constituencies – administration, faculty, students, and board members – will give greater weight to viewpoints that represent the entire full-time faculty.

Student Representation

We will be asking the Student Senators Council to deliberate this year on the subject of student representation. We would welcome the Council’s thoughts on ways in which the student population could consult more effectively with the Administration and the faculty.

Conclusion

We close by noting that the topic of governing the University will always be a work in progress, requiring continuing and evolving dialogue. We, and the other members of the Board, believe we are all endeavoring -- with the best of intentions -- to find the equilibrium that brings together all voices in the best possible way in order to build an even greater university. We look forward to continuing this dialogue; please feel free to contact us or the Board by e-mail to mlipton@nyu.edu.

Thank you for all your efforts, and we wish you a productive academic year.

The members of the Special Committee:

Phyllis Putter Barasch

William R. Berkley

Heather L. Cannady

Sharon Chang

Laurence D. Fink

Kenneth G. Langone

Martin Lipton

Kelly Kennedy Mack

Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon

Daniel R. Tisch

Anthony Welters

Leonard A. Wilf

Fred Wilson


[1] We recognize that in some of the smaller schools, the faculty meets in plenary session rather than electing representatives.

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