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A Response to the SSC Resolution on Representation on the Board of Trustees

TO: Husniye Cogur, Chair, SSC Executive Committee of the Student Senators Council
FROM: William R. Berkley, Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Andrew D. Hamilton, NYU President
DATE: Tuesday, July 24, 2018  

In late March, the Board received resolutions from the University Senate councils stressing the need to create new mechanisms for improving the communication of student and faculty concerns to the Trustees, as well as fostering dialogue between the Board and the NYU community. The SSC specifically proposed the appointment of two students to the Board among these measures.

At our recent meeting – following a conversation with SSC chair Husniye Cogur and Vice Chair Max Pau that was productive and helped clarify our thinking – the Board considered and discussed all of the Senate resolutions carefully.

Ensuring that student, faculty, and other campus concerns are put before the Board is a reasonable, understandable, and worthwhile goal.

During this past academic year, we worked hard to expand discourse and opportunities for communication between students, faculty, and Board members; however, the Board agrees more can be done to take account of the full range of student and faculty issues in our deliberations and to generally improve communications in both directions. We hope that the measures we propose below will also serve to demystify the Board’s work; we would like to believe that even when there may be disagreements about specifics, our aims are the same – to see NYU advance as a university, to support faculty research and students’ pursuit of their studies, and to work towards positive change on a global scale.

For some years, the opportunities for the Board and the Councils to discuss concerns with one another have been mostly somewhat informal. As a step towards improving communications and dialogue, the Board commits henceforth to a formalized, recurring set of engagements between Trustees, faculty, students, and other members of the NYU community:

  • Two times per year, the Executive Committee of the Board will meet with the Executive Committee of the University Senate. Minutes of the discussion will be prepared, jointly approved, and shared with members of the Board and the University Senate.
  • In addition, we will schedule a block of time each year for a designated group of Trustees to meet individually with the executive committee of each of the four councils (TFSC, AMC, CFSC, and SSC).
  • Representatives of the current Senate committees will meet with the representatives of their counterpart Board committees, where applicable, to share perspectives on areas of joint concern.
  • The Board will work with the SSC to plan both a schedule and invitation list for a Board/student lunch each semester and an annual dinner.
  • The Board will refresh and upgrade its website to provide easier access to information, such as the Board’s areas of responsibilities and the membership of Board committees.
  • The Board will establish a dedicated email account to enable students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, and other members of the NYU community to submit comments, concerns, and suggestions.
  • At the Board’s and President Hamilton’s direction, the offices of the University Administration will establish deeper engagement with the Senate Committees with which they are most closely aligned.
  • The University will work with the SSC as it develops a platform to better illustrate to students the functions and interrelationships of the Board, University administration, and school leadership.
  • The Board will continue to add younger alumni to its ranks.

We believe these new practices, will provide robust mechanisms for discussing and addressing campus issues.

The SSC has proposed appointing two student Trustees, one undergraduate and one graduate student. The TFSC has also similarly proposed appointing faculty to the Board.

The Board’s longstanding view continues to be that each Trustee should bring a holistic outlook – an approach that has demonstrably served the University very effectively over many decades – rather than having members who are representative of specific stakeholder groups and their particular interests. It is also the Board’s view that the consultative mechanisms we have proposed will be a far more effective way to take account of the wide variety of campus concerns.

Though our outlooks on the appointment of student and faculty Trustees may not be in alignment, we think we are – as we noted earlier – generally in agreement about the importance of improving communications. We look forward to working with the Senate to put in place in the near future our proposal – or something like it – in order to bring about a full and productive discourse.