Email to NYU Faculty - January 2013
Welcome back from winter recess. I hope you had an enjoyable break and that the rhythm of your scholarship and teaching is proceeding well.
As I said I would in an email I circulated last semester, I have been reflecting over the break on various aspects of the University's direction. I write this note to share some initial thoughts from those reflections:
NYU has come a long way in a short time, but one area in which I believe we have fallen far short is the level of broad faculty involvement in our decisional process. As President I take full responsibility for this, as well as the need to remedy it.
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. This principle applies both to long-standing programs as well as to initiatives.
The unfortunate reality is that – despite numerous meetings, committees and outreach efforts over the years – a significant number of colleagues have expressed that they are not sufficiently involved in the University's decisions. I accept this fact and the need to increase significantly faculty involvement.
Some broad principles of change have already been established. Over the last several years, the Faculty Senators Council (FSC) has been considering and framing a set of shared principles on governance. Last semester a group of Senators worked with senior members of the administration to further develop those principles and, at its last meeting, the Board of Trustees, upon my recommendation, ratified them.
One of the most vexed debates concerns space. In October we created the Space Priorities Working Group to review the complex challenges posed by the NYU 2031 development plan. This group is 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. It has been working for several months with the goal 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 guidance from this committee, to decide exactly how we make use of that opportunity. The committee's work, at my request, is comprehensive, open and transparent. Please 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 Global Network University has emerged very rapidly to become a major feature in University life; however, it will only work if the faculty – and its values – are at its core. To that end, we will be creating faculty oversight committees for each of our global sites and also will be establishing a university-wide faculty committee to provide advice on the overall development of the GNU. Our focus, working with the faculty, now will be consolidation and improvement of our efforts rather than opening new sites. The goal is to use the Global Network to maintain and enhance the quality of our departments and the reputation of NYU for scholarship and research, as well as the quality of our undergraduate and graduate education.
While these developments are significant, I recognize that many faculty see the need for a more fundamental overhaul of the way in which major decisions are taken at the University. In closing, then, I invite the whole University community – faculty, students administrators and deans – to join in a conversation about how governance procedures may be improved, so we can advance our collective pursuit of excellence in scholarship and teaching. And, as one part of this process, I have asked the Deans to pursue a dialogue with the faculties in their schools, wherein I can hear your ideas. I look forward to working with you on this.
Finally, you should always feel free to call my office or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.