Dear Faculty Colleagues,

At the first meeting this semester of the University Senate, I encouraged all of us in the NYU community to take a hard look at the issues of university governance and faculty engagement. I write today to let you know, from my perspective, where this discussion stands and the extent of the progress we have made.

Given the increasing complexity of NYU - as well as of all institutions of higher education in the United States - I believe the question before us is a crucially important one: How can we better communicate and engage with all constituencies within the University?

Over the last several years, the Faculty Senators Council (FSC) has been considering and framing a set of shared principles on governance and, starting a few months ago, a group of Senators have been working with senior members of the administration to further develop those principles. On November 20th, the FSC voted to approve a resolution ratifying those principles and I endorse them unequivocally as well. Moreover, I have asked that the FSC resolution be placed on the agenda for the December 12th University Trustees meeting. If the Trustees approve, these governing principles will be placed in the faculty handbook and guide the University moving forward. You can view the FSC resolution here.

The resolution affirms our commitment to practices that will facilitate meaningful faculty representation on university-wide bodies that advise on educational and administrative policy; transparency with respect to information used in university decision-making; adequate time for consultation with faculty on university policies; reasoned, written justification for University decisions; and communication between the faculty and their representatives. (Next semester, the FSC and the administration intend to continue discussions on a number of issues, including the topic of how changes to the Faculty Handbook are to be made.)

Collaborating on this resolution is welcome progress, but it is only a start. Several important faculty-centered deliberations are ongoing and I encourage you to participate in them:

  • The Space Priorities Working Group – composed of 18 faculty representatives appointed by the Deans of the schools as well as 2 representatives each appointed by the Faculty Senators Council, the Student Senators Council, the Administrative Management Council and the administration – has been meeting since October with the charge of providing definitive guidance to the University on the choices we face in order to meet NYU’s spatial needs within its core. The New York City Council has granted NYU a zoning ‘envelope’ within which to build, but it is now up to NYU (and, ultimately, its trustees), with direction from this committee, to decide exactly how we make use of that opportunity.

This large working group, drawn from representatives from across NYU, and chaired by Ted Magder (who is also Chair of the Faculty Senators Council), has been studying the various facets of this topic in order to reach informed and thoughtful conclusions. I hope you will take time to visit the Working Group’s website, where you can read through detailed meeting summaries, review all information they have gathered at their meetings, and offer your input.

  • The Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU has been formed to guide the University in using technology to improve teaching and learning. This is obviously a dynamic field and one with tremendous bearing on our future. We cannot ignore the change that is occurring around us, and it is imperative that we choose strategies that are in keeping with our academic standards. The members of the Committee, assembled in consultation with the Deans and the FSC, can be viewed here. As it begins its work, the Committee will be reaching out to the University community but you should feel free to contact these colleagues directly with your thoughts and input.
  • In various venues, consultations are taking place about the Global Network University. Many of these discussions are occurring in the schools, with the focus on ways in which departments and programs can shape, participate in, and take advantage of NYU’s new portal campuses and global academic centers. Additional conversations are taking place between the FSC’s Committee on Global Network Initiatives and senior administrators with global network responsibilities. I am certain that the FSC representatives who are members of this committee would be glad to incorporate your input into the deliberations.
  • Executive Vice President Robert Berne is currently leading an effort to solicit views about the position that NYU should take if the National Labor Relations Board determines that the UAW can seek to unionize Teaching Assistants and/or Research Assistants. We need to hear the views of the entire community, so we are engaging the FSC, the Student Senators Council, the Senate Committee on Academic Affairs, and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Academic Priorities; additionally, the Deans (or Directors) are leading discussions in their respective schools.

Please take the time to become involved in these and other discussions. And, don’t hesitate to contact me directly at

We have all put a tremendous amount of time and energy into building and sustaining NYU’s upward trajectory – an ascent that would have been unimaginable even 20 years ago. Looking forward, we all – the administration, the faculty and all of the other constituencies that make a great university – must maintain and enhance this progress.

With this in mind, I look forward to continuing our work next semester.

Before closing, I want to recognize that some members of our community still are dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and to thank those among us aiding in the recovery effort.

Happy holidays.
John Sexton