Final Report of the Transition Team
|President-Designate John E. Sexton
|Professor Norman Dorsen for the Presidential Transition Team
|Final Report of the Transition Team
|March 8, 2002
It is with great pleasure that I transmit to you the final report of the Transition Team, whose charge and process are described in the introduction to the report. The Team has worked steadily since President Jay Oliva and you constituted it in June.
Every member of the Team has contributed to the final product and they all deserve warm thanks for their efforts. The Team’s executive director, Jack Lew, and the chairs of the Team’s committees -- Jess Benhabib, Mary Schmidt Campbell, Dick Foley, Robert Shapley and Diane Yu -- merit special commendation for the responsibility they each assumed. In addition, Diane and her assistant, Carolyn Atwood, performed a great service by assuring the production and distribution, often under tight deadlines, of successive drafts of committee reports and this final report.
The Transition Team understands, as has been clear from the outset, that you will decide whether or not to accept the various recommendations contained in the report. You will also have to decide what portions of the report to make public. The Team considered this matter on several occasions and I have conveyed to you its views on public release.
As you have requested, I shall assume the ongoing responsibility in my new position of Counselor to the President of working with you, Jack Lew and the new Provost to assure that due consideration is given to the recommendations in the Transition Team’s report.
All members of the Transition Team are grateful for the opportunity to serve your administration, and we are available at your convenience to respond to any questions you may have or to discuss any aspect of the report. On a personal note, it was my great privilege to chair the Team and to work as closely as I have with the outstanding administrators and faculty members who so diligently and effectively responded to their important assignment.
Soon after your selection as the 15th president of New York University, you and current president L. Jay Oliva, after discussions with Martin Lipton, chairman of the Board of Trustees, formed a University Presidential Transition Team (the Team). The Team’s charge was to provide a sound factual basis for assessment of the University and its constituent units and to develop strategies that would help NYU move firmly into the top tier of universities by identifying and pursuing opportunities to achieve broad-based excellence. The process began with discussions, in which you participated, of how NYU can and should flourish as a leader in research, ideas, scholarship, and teaching across the University’s many academic units.
The Team initially scheduled meetings of its chair, executive director, and deputy director with the deans of the 14 schools and colleges and with senior administrators to canvass the primary issues facing the University. The meetings reviewed opportunities and obstacles to achieving the University’s aspirations and possible short-term and long-term approaches to attaining these goals. The entire Team then met with you to discuss initial observations and to chart the Team’s next steps. You made it clear from the outset that the Team should be independent and venturesome, and in particular that it should make recommendations that were original and even daring if they represented the Team’s considered views. You also urged us to involve a broad cross-section of the University community and to listen to many voices on the issues under consideration.
We have attempted to follow this approach. Early on, we formed four committees to study specific problems and make. In addition, members of the Team have met informally throughout the process with faculty, students, alumni and numerous organizations at the University in order to obtain a variety of opinions. The Team has issued two progress reports to the University community, and it has solicited and received a number of comments. Some of the ideas derived from these outreach efforts have been incorporated into the committee reports, while others will more appropriately be considered when implementation decisions are made.
We know that during this period you have acted to deepen your familiarity with the University. In particular, you organized a large number of small group meetings with faculty who expressed the desire to exchange ideas with you, met with a larger faculty group for the same purpose, and have visited with the faculties of several schools. We have little doubt that these conversations, and others, will enable you to consider this report more knowledgeably and to evaluate its recommendations in a more discriminating way. While the Team has done its utmost to bring to you a broad set of observations and proposals, we understand that you are free to adopt, modify or reject various elements based on your view of their merits and on your priorities.
The bulk of this report is based on the work of the Team’s four committees -- Academic Priorities, Academic Space, Faculty Housing, and Student Enrollment, Financial Aid and Housing. We note at the outset that, to permit concentration on the merits of various ideas, we encouraged the committees to develop their proposals without serious consideration of financial constraints. In addition to the four committees, we formed a working group on children’s education to address a series of issues of importance to many members of the administration and faculty. We concluded that this working group would need more time to complete its work than was available to the Team and we set a deadline for the group of May 2002.
There is a great deal that is right about NYU. In recent years, the University has taken bold steps and made substantial progress, and consequently it is widely regarded as an institution of considerable strengths and appeal. One of the largest private universities in the world, it has over 36,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels and, with the Medical Center, constitutes one of the top private employers in New York City. Its location in the global capital of the world, with its wealth of resources and opportunities, is also a primary strength and enriches the intellectual community in numerous ways.
NYU is a completely different institution than it was twenty years ago and quite different than it was only ten years ago. During that time, it implemented a recruitment strategy marked by a continuing ability to attract some of the best graduate and professional students in the world. NYU has more international students than any other university in the United States. NYU currently houses more than twice as many students as it did ten years ago. The SAT scores of entering undergraduates are at unprecedented levels, having risen nearly 100 points in less than a decade. The academic trajectory of most units is on the ascent, although there are inevitable differences among them. In recruiting faculty, NYU now competes with the top institutions of higher education, it has acquired hundreds of thousands of square feet of academic space, and it has secured research funding many multiples above levels of a decade earlier. In the universe of higher education, such rapid and significant change is unusual if not extraordinary.
The Team’s purpose, however, is not to praise the current or former administrations, nor report on the many ways in which the University is outstanding. Rather, our charge and intention is to make suggestions as to how NYU can move even higher into the ranks of the world’s preeminent educational institutions. As we climb, the competitive challenges will be even more daunting, particularly in light of our current financial resources. The University must increase its resources and find non-financial assets to build upon, as well as use what we have more effectively and creatively, to extend our dramatic record of achievement. It is clear that we will not be able to do everything at once, and will have to make choices. As will be evident, the Team believes that those choices should be made based on their expected contribution to academic excellence.
We have identified three main themes into which the great majority of recommendations from the four committees fall: the centrality of the academic mission, the desire for more coordinated planning, and the need for more efficient administration. We begin with a summary of the issues in accordance with those themes.
The Centrality of the Academic Mission
The principal objective of the Transition Team’s report is to suggest how NYU can emerge, over the next decade, as one of the leading exemplars of 21st century American universities. To this end, it is essential that the University reinforce its efforts to recruit and retain the best researchers and scholars. This requires that we create and sustain conditions that will attract more of these men and women to NYU.
The prime condition is for the University to cement a culture of academic excellence, initially by firm adherence of University leaders to this standard and by its unequivocal communication to each unit of the University. The standard of excellence cannot merely be articulated at the general level. The University must vigorously encourage excellence through appropriate rewards, including improved compensation and research packages, modified course loads, and research leaves. There must be specific strategies to attain a high level of performance and the results, to the extent possible, should be measured by relatively objective indicators, such as external peer reviews, national rankings, grant support, research results and the success of our graduates. At the same time, additional procedures to evaluate progress towards academic excellence across the board must be instituted, including the review of appointment and tenure standards and procedures, consideration of sunset provisions for centers and institutes, and the rigorous and candid assessment of schools, departments and other units. There should also be budget accountability to assure that only intellectually valuable programs are funded. Similarly, we must focus fundraising as much as possible on the most important and promising academic initiatives.
In this entire effort it is important to emphasize that research and teaching initiatives should ordinarily develop from current or potential faculty interests. This principle does not rule out University structures that will facilitate the faculty’s intellectual efforts and interaction. These could include a University-wide academic planning committee that would recommend preferred strategies from among options proposed by the faculty and deans. It might also include a process to support short-term projects of two or three years through funds for academic visitors, seminars, and research on enterprising or particularly interesting initiatives that do not attract outside grants. The planning process, performed in close cooperation with the schools, should be ambitious. The Team believes that there are many opportunities in most, if not all, fields that could innovatively stretch the boundaries of knowledge and the excitement of learning. In this respect, we emphasize the importance of classroom teaching and the sympathetic mentoring of students by faculty. Stimulating teaching not only has a lasting effect on students, but it also can contribute to scholarship as faculty members try out new ideas in dialogue with their students.
An important element of NYU becoming an exemplar of 21st century university education is the development of an even stronger Faculty of Arts and Sciences, one that would rank among the best in the country. A successful strategy in this respect must build on the work of the best FAS departments and strengthen core disciplines, while at the same time recognizing that the concept of a core is dynamic, that disciplines evolve with advances in knowledge, and that inter-disciplinary and cross-school ventures are often among the most successful scholarly achievements. In this light, we should also look to opportunities for academic synergies between units of the University.
Similar prescriptions are appropriate for the professional schools, which are among the University’s most distinguished units. Continuation and enhancement of creative research and teaching that go beyond the basic mission of professional training will help to attract and retain exceptional and productive faculty who will bring distinction to the schools and to the University. Work in the professional schools can deepen understanding and transmit to students the best of the professional ethos. The continued development of first class professional education also can have salutary consequences as cross-school initiatives are undertaken.
These pursuits, which are discussed in the report of the Committee on Academic Priorities, are in our view essential but not sufficient to attain the desired level of excellence. Recommendations contained in the other three committee reports are also relevant to NYU’s academic program.
For example, ample and suitable academic space for classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices and other uses are vital to the intellectual enterprise. At present, the facilities in certain schools and other units of the University are sub-par or poorly maintained, or both. Instructors sometimes lack a welcoming and appropriate classroom or laboratory environment in which to teach, office space is deficient, and the overall result in some instances is an impediment to learning. The increased importance of technology provides an additional burden on NYU’s facilities and services that must be met if we are to achieve the academic stature we all desire.
Some of these difficulties are especially evident in the scientific disciplines. A substantial fraction of our undergraduates are science pre-health majors, and research and teaching laboratories are critical to their learning and to the capacity of faculty to do their jobs, all of which is related to the ability to recruit and retain faculty and students of the first quality. However, many of our research and teaching laboratories have not been renovated in many years and need upgrading if the University is to achieve its academic goals. Improvement will require an infusion of substantial funds for new buildings, as well as for modernization and maintenance of existing facilities. These issues and others are more fully discussed in the report of the Committee on Academic Space.
Another vital ingredient in the academic enterprise is to assure adequate housing to top faculty at reasonable cost. At present the University owns more than 2200 units of faculty and non-NYU employee housing in more than ten buildings in Greenwich Village and adjacent neighborhoods. In the 1970’s, there were many vacancies in University apartments. In recent years, a trend toward more broadly national and international faculty recruiting and the increased desire of new hires to live close to campus (or to avoid the complexities and additional expense of non-NYU housing) have created a severe housing shortage, especially of larger units. According to the Faculty Housing Committee, NYU suffers in comparison with peer institutions that are able to offer better housing of diverse kinds, provide more timely information on apartment availability, or promote affordable home ownership programs. The housing system is also deficient because it has adverse effects on both the pace of retirements and, because of inadequate budget and planning integration, the hiring of new faculty.
Since these efforts are crucial for the University’s future, the Committee recommends that NYU’s faculty housing program be geared toward maximizing our faculty recruitment and retention efforts in the coming years. The backdrop for this analysis is two-fold -- the reality of competitive pressures and supply and demand trends in faculty housing. We should shift from the inclination to nurture a local, residential community of scholars, which underlies many of our present housing policies, and build more diversity and choice into our program, including home purchase assistance options. Gradually moving in the direction of the private market will accomplish at least three objectives: assisting us in meeting the competition, positioning NYU to accommodate differing needs of key faculty, and helping to anchor such faculty to the University through forgivable loans and shared equity features.
Attracting and retaining more top graduate students is similarly critical to our goals. The Student Enrollment, Financial Aid and Housing Committee found that our graduate student housing program is not well designed in terms of targeting those students whose presence most contributes to the excellence of the University. The on-campus program is largely based on the undergraduate model, rather than tailored to the older, more mature graduate student, and has the added disadvantage of being costly to both the graduate student and to the University to operate. Consequently, the Committee recommends adopting a strategic approach that will improve our ability to compete for the best graduate students, principally by providing them meaningful assistance in securing suitable and affordable off-campus housing.
The report of the Student Enrollment, Financial Aid and Housing Committee addressed other issues that bear on the excellence of the University. A quality student body is obviously of the highest importance. Top students enrich the intellectual atmosphere, in class and out, and their energy can invigorate an institution and everyone in it, including faculty. Beyond that, outstanding faculty want to teach the best students, and they will be drawn to a place that has them.
At present, while NYU has many students of the first rank, both undergraduate and graduate, and while the quality of the student body has made impressive gains in recent years, there is more that can be done, as the student committee report explains. Many of the initiatives have direct financial costs, such as offering more and better scholarships, more and better student housing, and a better faculty-student ratio at many schools. But other techniques are available at lower cost that will enhance the NYU experience, including a more efficient and welcoming administration, congenial physical space for studying and meetings, and top to bottom engagement with the career goals and problems of our students.
The Need for Coordinated Planning
Another principal theme running through the committee reports is that NYU is at a point where introducing more coordinated planning is essential to consolidate and build on our gains. In recent years, the independence of the schools has permitted considerable freedom for each school to develop strategies to reach their objectives in terms of mission and quality. Many schools have done very well by strengthening their faculty and attracting increasingly high quality students. While the deans of course have consulted with senior administrators on fiscal matters, virtually none of a school’s planning information is distributed to the other schools, even if other units would be directly or indirectly affected by a particular school’s actions.
In this light, the Team’s committees recommend approaches to planning that would involve greater coordination from the University administration and increased inter-school sharing of information. For example, the Academic Priorities Committee recommends, as mentioned above, that a priority-setting and assessment process be instituted, presumably led by the Provost, to evaluate progress of academic units every five years.
The Academic Space Committee also urges more efficient planning. In the first instance, the committee cites the “…need for the establishment of a central academic planning mechanism by which the University’s academic space needs could be determined and strategies developed to meet those needs. Without such a process, not only will the University experience the injudicious use of scarce resources but it will not be able to identify its considerable strengths or build and capitalize on them in a timely fashion, nor will it absorb the exponential increase in demand for new technologies in classrooms.”
One route is to set up an academic planning process involving the President, Provost, and deans to articulate first principles of academic excellence, identify targets of opportunity for the University as a whole, and establish priorities to guide the long-term development of academic space. Such a process might minimize what the committee saw as some of the haphazard and ad hoc aspects of our current system.
Secondly, the Academic Space Committee urges that NYU revamp the planning process that reviews and shapes its real estate portfolio so that it will be “…guided by predetermined principles of urban and academic planning…[to] provide the University with the opportunity to grow in a more studied and deliberate manner.” The committee reflected on what it characterized as the largely opportunistic method by which the University has in the past pursued, acquired, or renovated its real estate holdings. It sees the wisdom of converting to a planning model that examines the properties adjoining the core campus to ascertain the most feasible locations for expansion, and undertaking a systematic approach to acquisitions. For example, the University might consider the academic and cost benefits of expanding the past practice of converting existing space now used for administrative services so it can be used instead for instructional space, while relocating administrative services to more distant locations.
In a similar vein, the Faculty Housing Committee identified benefits that would flow from a coherent and responsive planning approach that involves the Provost, deans, and University administrators. This would transform the faculty housing program into one possessing more substantive and flexible tools to achieve targeted recruitment and retention objectives.
The Student Enrollment, Financial Aid and Housing Committee identified several instances where planning efforts led and coordinated by the University administration would advance the interests of improving student quality and the student experience at NYU. As stated at the outset of the committee report, the University
...should undertake a central planning exercise that will identify an optimal size for the undergraduate student body for the next few years – a size that will meet financial needs but also promote educational excellence and retention. Past enrollment practices allowing each school to pursue its own vision have achieved outstanding results, but lack of overall strategic planning or awareness of the consequences of one school’s unilateral enrollment decisions on other schools and the University as a whole impede our ability to reach the next level of excellence. The process, which should involve both deans and relevant administrators, should take into account the different needs of different units, whether changes in undergraduate enrollment may be achieved through re-balancing (i.e., between one unit’s size and another’s, or between graduate and undergraduate enrollment), the varying transfer patterns of schools, and the limits of our physical and human resources in accommodating an inordinately large student population.Good data on the experience and academic performance of undergraduate transfers by division and schools would inform our enrollment practices. However, the committee learned that these data are scarce. Since we accept more transfers than may be necessary to compensate for losses from attrition, the committee recommends that there be a University study of transfer patterns and successful models of healthy retention around the University.
The committee also determined that more comprehensive information and coordinated decision-making could improve the undergraduate housing program. In particular, the lottery system and overall housing management policies should be reviewed to ensure that they best achieve our multiple goals.
Furthermore, the Student Enrollment Committee suggests that the University invest in institutional research to permit more accurate cost, size, and quality assessments of our graduate student programs, including comparisons with other institutions. The University would also benefit from furnishing the schools with greater technological support and planning assistance for the aggressive recruiting of graduate students, which are not cost-effective on a school by school basis, but might be through system-wide economies of scale. The committee was unable to obtain detailed statistics on recruitment and enrollment from the graduate divisions, which when acquired will be helpful in these efforts.
Achieving More Efficient Management
The Team finds a need for a more efficient and responsive approach on the part of the University administration in many areas. From interviews with deans to comments at your informal faculty sessions to input from a web-based survey that went to all students and elicited nearly 2000 responses, there were numerous comments suggesting the need for systematic changes on the administrative side. Many perceive NYU as a bureaucracy that too often does not respond courteously or efficiently to requests for assistance or action. This perception is not uncommon among large, complex institutions. At NYU, the size of our staff has not kept pace with the rapid enrollment growth of the University over the past decade and the corresponding increase in demands for services. Nevertheless, the pervasiveness of these concerns throughout the University suggests an important role that administrative leaders can play in making offices more accountable and responsive.
There are also concerns about inadequate coordination of University administrative offices. At times, what people encounter is a set of complex, outdated, or conflicting rules or policies, or weak communication and coordination between the University administration and the schools. Again, greater efficiency, improved management policies, or adequate staffing, or a combination thereof can help to address the issue. The overall goal should be to pursue academic excellence with higher levels of customer satisfaction. Examples of the need for change can be found in each of the areas studied by the Team.
Policies that would enable more efficient management of academic space include adopting a five or five and a half day week and modifying school certain proprietary space practices. Many schools already have a five-day week, but in some departments or other units a four-day academic week has become the norm, resulting in enormous pressure on instructional space on Monday through Thursday and empty classrooms on Friday. The crowded four-day schedule also creates maintenance and cleaning problems, since there is no time for midday cleaning.
The Academic Space Committee was most divided on the issue of proprietary space versus general-usage space. Individual schools have highly specialized, well maintained and well managed space to meet their own needs. This proprietary space has not been available to the pool of general purpose instructional space. Schools cite the constant demand of their own programs, the need for special technologies, and the fear that “outsiders” might not be respectful of their classrooms. There is a widespread perception that general purpose classrooms fail to meet the maintenance standards of school controlled space, and broad concern that general purpose rooms will not be available when needed. All these considerations currently lead to a practice of hoarding proprietary space.
Many on the committee felt strongly that the University should move to a system in which all instructional space goes into a general pool; schools with proprietary space would get first call on those spaces, but not sole call. Others favored a plan in which blocks of space would be made available to the general pool after all proprietary classroom obligations had been met.
Either approach would represent a sea-change in the management of academic space and could yield significant space for general use. Under either scenario, there must be assurance that general use spaces will be available when needed and will be maintained in a manner comparable to proprietary spaces. Creativity in finding general use space could be encouraged by, for example, NYU devising a system with fiscal incentives awarded to schools that make more of their proprietary space available for general use.
As noted above, management of academic space would be improved with more coordinated responsibility for decisions and performance. At the operational as distinguished from the planning level (which is discussed earlier), the Academic Space Committee suggests that a single office be responsible for scheduling, operation, and management of general instructional space throughout the University. Currently, the Registrar only schedules space, with other facilities issues managed by different offices within the University. This sometimes leads to confusion and frustration of faculty and students alike. Faculty members also have difficulty scheduling classrooms with appropriate technology and may lose teaching time because available technology is not dependable. Greater use of electronic resources for academic activities will increase reliance on NYU’s network for the capacity, performance, reliability, and robustness across NYU sites in Manhattan and around the world. It is essential to modernize the network and to make certain that technical support is available to address problems when they arise. A central office could also recapture unused space during the course of a semester as schedules change.
In addition, there appears to be a lack of accountability for the solution of certain problems, such as cleanliness, technology, and access to classrooms. The committee recommends several ideas to parallel the way schools manage their own instructional space that would enhance user satisfaction and sense of ownership in common spaces.
Public space for conferences, meetings, seminars, symposia, lectures, and departmental events is in scarce supply and needs to be better managed as well. Faculty members planning public events currently confront several problems, including cost differentials for space, inability to book rooms well in advance of an event, and the tedious school by school entreaty that must be undertaken to secure a room. In short, in order to respond to these needs, we need to establish a coordinated or centralized booking office for these public space functions.
Turning to the Faculty Housing report, in addition to a broad range of policy recommendations already mentioned, the committee urges that management of the housing program be improved. As with student services, there is concern that unclear lines of responsibility result in faculty with problems having to contact more than one office before the right one is found. In recruiting efforts, deans and the Provost will need a clear understanding of available campus housing options, available off campus financing options, and services that can be provided to a new faculty member to find and finance their housing arrangements. For existing faculty members, NYU should streamline ways to make and change housing arrangements and handle repairs or improvements. We cannot have a one size fits all approach to housing, but we should be able to target housing resources and facilitate the process for faculty members to better satisfy their needs.
Along the same lines, the Student Enrollment Committee advocates that offices that interact with students regularly should be reoriented towards timely and clear communication, as well as problem-solving. For instance, in order to simplify the face of the University for students, housing and financial services should be more effectively organized to reduce overlapping functions. In particular, the student survey and recommendations from student groups indicated that residential management needs improvement. Concerns cited include the cumbersome undergraduate dormitory sign-in process, maintenance delays, and lack of communication between staff and students. As previously mentioned, what graduate students need in particular is assistance with off campus housing, such as services to help them understand the vagaries of the New York metropolitan area housing market, locate apartments and, if possible, assist financially in securing leases. Since University housing is so expensive and now requires a University subsidy, a relatively small expenditure in improved housing services should prove cost-effective.
Finally, the financial benefit of accepting more students needs to be balanced against the mounting pressure on services. The University needs to develop reliable statistics on the marginal revenue generated by each additional student net of all associated costs, and to review the extent to which financial aid has been successfully used as a strategy for enrolling the best quality class.
Before concluding, we want to mention several matters that, despite their significance to the future of the University, were not included in the mandate of any of the committees. These are topics that are important to the University currently and will continue to be important in the future. We reiterate that resources at the University are limited and difficult choices will have to be made on the basis of their impact on academic excellence. It is of course imperative that decisions be made by a process that is fair and accountable.
Diversity and Faculty Family Issues
As a microcosm of the country’s most global and demographically dynamic city, NYU supports the value of equality of opportunity and the need to provide an environment that nurtures the full potential of all members of its community. NYU has long attracted the children of underrepresented groups, working people, and immigrants to its student body. Diversity is an integral part of our equation for excellence. It is a marker of progress in the national effort to eliminate discrimination and, in particular, to equalize access to avenues of educational and professional opportunity. Diversity reflects our society at large. It also enriches virtually every aspect of the educational experience by permitting a wider range of voices and perspectives to be heard that will better inform debate and stimulate new thinking. Finally, encouraging diversity helps break down societal barriers and develop expectations of tolerance, respect and community toward fellow students and faculty. These policies have served us well, and must not in any way be compromised as we move up to the next level of excellence.
As evidenced above, some of theTeam’s committees have emphasized how NYU can most effectively recruit and retain the best possible faculty through strategic use of faculty housing and other tools. Another major factor in this context may be the education of faculty children. For many potential faculty members from out of state with school-age children, obtaining reliable, comprehensive information about public and private schools in the New York metropolitan area is very difficult. The working group on faculty children’s education will explore options to assist prospective faculty members in navigating the region’s educational system, as well as other issues that affect NYU faculty parents, such as child care, portable tuition packages for college-bound children, and family leave.
New York City
Since its inception NYU has been closely tied to New York City. Modeled on urban universities in London and Paris, NYU has been able to take advantage of a unique asset -- the breadth and depth of the city’s cultural and professional resources. As explained by one of NYU’s early faculty members, Henry P. Tappan, “by adding to the natural attractions of a metropolitan city the attractions of literature, science, and art, as embodied in a great University, students from every part of the Union would be naturally drawn together.” The Team believes that the University should reinforce efforts to capitalize on our unique location as a means of enhancing our stature and quality in the future.
Faculty and students are primarily drawn to NYU by the quality of its academic programs. But New York City also has its own appeal to both faculty and students, not only those from the New York area but also those from around the country and the world. With countless museums, galleries, concert halls, theaters, libraries and architectural masterpieces, New York is a cultural and artistic center. It is also the center of media, publishing, international business and finance and home to some of the world’s best legal and medical professionals. And with the United Nations, New York City is at the center of international relations.
NYU’s location offers incomparable opportunities for study, collaborations, professional internships, and community service. One example is the New York Regional Genomics Consortium, led by NYU’s Biology Department in cooperation with the Courant Institute, the New York Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, and the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratories. In New York, students can explore a multitude of professional choices based on first hand experience. In the survey conducted by the Student Enrollment, Financial Aid and Housing committee, many students noted that New York City was an invaluable additional resource that enriched their academic, personal and professional development. Just as NYU will continue to contribute to New York as the intellectual, cultural, and business capital of the world, NYU will continue to derive strength and resources from it.
It is now common knowledge that we live in an era of globalization, of deep interconnection among peoples, institutions and governments. This reality was spawned and has been propelled by fast-developing technology in communication and transportation, and by other technological advances. The effects are evident in many spheres of learning as individuals from many countries -- faculty and students -- work together, learn together and build on each other’s insights and work. Indeed, as President Lawrence Summers of Harvard University said in his recent inaugural address, “over time, the converging phenomena of globalization and new information technologies may well alter -- will alter -- the university in ways that we can now only dimly perceive.”
Apart from New York’s significance to the nation, it also serves as a bridge between the United States and the rest of the world. The attack on the World Trade Center must not result in a dismantling of that bridge. NYU should re-emphasize the University’s commitment to developing formal and informal contacts with peer institutions and scholars throughout the world and to improving our students’ understanding of other lands, languages and cultures. An uncertain grasp of troubled societies across the globe can threaten the security and well-being of the United States. For these reasons, America’s universities, NYU in the lead, should place a high priority on improving an understanding of America’s place in an increasingly interdependent world.
We also must understand that while globalization affects almost everything we do, it does not do so in the same way, and its impact will be reflected differently in units of the University. As we have emphasized above, neither a global theme nor any other theme should be allowed to undermine the goal of academic excellence. In this way the potential value of global elements to NYU’s future will be fully realized.
The Public Interest
In taking account of all the above issues and the more extended discussion in the committee reports, we observe that New York University, like other academic institutions, does not exist in isolation. Its intellectual mission takes place within the broader society and it justifies its existence partly by the contribution it makes to that society. This means that members of the University community should engage with issues that resonate beyond the University’s walls, using scholarship, reason and civilized dialogue to advance solutions to contemporary questions.
We do not suggest that the academy should focus on the “quick fix” for particular problems to the detriment of long-term and more fundamental initiatives, whether research or pedagogical. That would be a serious error unworthy of a great institution. But we must recognize collectively that our constituents include real people with real problems, and that it is laudable to address those problems with the vast human and other resources at the University’s disposal. Such action can take various forms, but at the least we must be aware of the difficulties faced by traditionally less favored groups, of the distinctive needs of the community and country in which we reside, of the importance of maintaining a high and flourishing standard in the arts, theater and music, and of the importance of addressing these matters consistent with the academic concerns of the faculty, and the ability of varied constituencies to inform our programmatic priorities..
It is easier to express the rhetoric of academic excellence than to attain it. Nevertheless, to extend our record of achieving excellence in this new century, it will be necessary to have a firm and public commitment to the goal, to understand that it is not a short-run exercise, and to recognize that there will be many obstacles, including variant visions of excellence. We make our recommendations fully aware of the challenges and their potential difficulties, and we hope that this report will lead to a stronger and more effective institution.
University Presidential Transition Team
Prof. Norman Dorsen, chair
Prof. Jess Benhabib
Vice President Robert Berne
Dean Mary Schmidt Campbell
Prof. Gloria Coruzzi
Prof. Lucinda Covert-Vail
Dean Richard Foley
Dean Robert Glickman
Prof. Martin Gruber
Richard Katcher, Esq.
Executive Director Jack Lew
General Counsel S. Andrew Schaffer
Prof. Robert Shapley
Provost Harvey Stedman
Deputy Director Diane Yu