Date: Thursday, December 4, 2014
From: NYU President John Sexton

Dear Fellow Members of the NYU Community,

The quest for justice is what drew many of us to this scholarly community – to study the law, so we might protect people's rights; to study the healing arts, so we may alleviate suffering; to study economics, so prosperity might be widely shared; to study journalism and history, so our society would be informed and could confront hard truths about itself. The list goes on and on.

Now – in the aftermath of grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri and just a few miles away in our own city – we are challenged to think on the nature of justice; on how the administration of justice leaves many of us feeling alienated, angry, ill-served, mistrustful, and scared; and on whether our justice system is capable of treating all people justly.

I know that many of you are hurting today. Regardless of one’s view of the two grand jury outcomes, we are united in feeling sympathy for the Garner and Brown families, for the parents, spouses, loved ones, children, and friends left behind. Some of us, especially people of color in our community, may see themselves in Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

I know, too, that this topic will be discussed in classrooms, dorm rooms, and dining halls – that is as it should be at a university. Some of that dialogue will be fervent, some challenging, some uncomfortable; however, we should commit ourselves to undertaking that discourse with respect and in accordance with our highest traditions, viewing even the toughest exchange as an opportunity to listen and to learn from one another. Let us conduct ourselves in a way that might afford the Brown and Garner families some solace and some hope that their terrible losses may lead to a better, more inclusive ideal of justice and peace.

In the coming days, even as we go about finishing the semester and preparing for final examinations, the Provost's Office will be reaching out to faculty and to administrators in offices such as Center for Multicultural Education and Programs to organize programs to do what we as a university community do best: to discuss, to teach, to learn, and to understand. Students in particular may wish to reach out to resources such as CMEP, the Center for Global Spiritual Life, or even the Wellness Exchange to engage the campus-wide dialogue, to make themselves aware of events, or to address their feelings or distress.

Our University’s motto is Perstare et Praestare: to persevere and excel. I can think of no finer or more necessary qualities for the pursuit of justice.


John Sexton