FROM: NYU President John Sexton
RE: Welcome - Priorities for the New Academic Year

As we start the 2013-14 academic year, I offer a warm welcome to all those students, faculty, administrators, and staff who are new to our community. And to those who are returning after their summer holidays – welcome back.

I came to NYU as a faculty member over 30 years ago and I assumed my present assignment over 12 years ago; thus, as I enter the last few years of my stewardship, much closer to the end of my time than to the beginning, I am anticipating both what I hope we will accomplish in the year ahead and how I hope we will solidify the progress that has been the hallmark of recent decades at NYU, even as we set the stage for continued and equally exciting progress in the decades ahead.

Together we have accomplished a great deal: among other achievements, we have both expanded and strengthened our faculty, developed new areas of scholarly inquiry, recruited extraordinary students from across the nation and around the world, established ourselves as the foremost global university, enhanced NYU’s stature and reputation, and both renewed the space that we inherited and provided the opportunity to meet our present and future space needs. Though this agenda recently has brought controversy in some quarters, very few would fault its ambition, its creativity, or its goal of securing NYU’s future well-being and sustaining the academic momentum that has brought the University so far in the last three decades.

As we begin this new year, I want to highlight two undertakings that will be very important to sustaining our trajectory and that I hope will rally the effort of every member of our community. For many of us, they will occupy much of our effort in the coming year. I hope that you will join us.

The first undertaking is the continuation of our work on improving the University's governance.

The modern research university is extraordinarily complex; higher education is changing more rapidly than in the past, and the pressures on universities are greater than they ever have been. The traditional, collegial mechanisms for making decisions, though still valuable, are no longer sufficient. We must create new, additional mechanisms for consultation. As we shape the NYU of tomorrow, we must work to develop these mechanisms. We must work together, acting with good will and without rancor. If we do so, I believe we will succeed in creating new governance structures that will position NYU well to meet the challenges and opportunities of the decades ahead.

Last year, the University's Trustees adopted a set of five recommendations on shared governance that had been developed by the Faculty Senators Council. In the spring, a committee of the board spent dozens of hours in conversation with a wide range of stakeholders about how we might improve our decision-making structures. Our next step will be to build on the work and recommendations of this Special Committee which were shared with the University community in mid-August. I expect to devote much of my time in the coming year on enhancing the involvement of every element of our community in University decision making.

Several significant and important initiatives already have provided robust mechanisms for a still greater participation in shaping our University's future. These initiatives provide useful templates for us to consider for use more broadly. For instance, the University Space Priorities Working Group issued an interim report on solutions to the University’s space needs and is expected to issue its final report towards the end of the fall semester; the Faculty Committee on the Future of Technology-Enhanced Education at NYU issued an interim report (login with your NYU NetID) in August and will resume its work in the fall; and the Faculty Advisory Committee on NYU’s Global Network is fully operative. We should thank the colleagues who are devoting their efforts to these committees and give them our input and support.

In addition to the work we will do on the University's governance, we will devote extraordinary energy to a second undertaking, a dedicated and aggressive fundraising campaign devoted to making more scholarship money available to our students in the future.

NYU is in a challenging position: among colleges and universities of our stature: our per student endowment is far smaller than most of our peers’. Since endowment is the major source of financial aid at most of our peer schools, this means that far less scholarship aid is available than we want and need. While the 10 years between 2002 and 2012 were marked by significant growth in our financial aid budget (134%) and the impact of our grant aid (in 2002, our average grant covered 34% of tuition; in 2012, it covered 55% of tuition), we need to stimulate significant additional philanthropy to enable students who might choose for financial reasons to go to another college to attend and graduate from NYU.

As we begin the fall semester, the NYU Board will officially announce NYU’s "Momentum Campaign" with the goal of raising $1 billion over six years for scholarship funding. And we will announce this campaign with money already committed: five trustees who a few years ago catalyzed the Partners Plan that so successfully underwrote the dramatic growth in the size of the faculty of FAS – Martin Lipton, Anthony Welters, Leonard Wilf, William Berkley, and Helen Kimmel – and joined now by Larry and Klara Silverstein and the Starr Foundation have again partnered to pledge a total of more than $70 million in lead gifts. This is a very good start; but we will need the help of everyone in our community as we press to a greater goal.

In emphasizing the two priorities I have outlined, I do not want to diminish the other benchmarks that we will see this year or to minimize other efforts that we must make. We are welcoming an extraordinary new group of faculty to the University (about whom Provost David McLaughlin will be writing you soon, among other academic initiatives). The Campus Transformation Plan at the NYU Langone Medical Center will continue to move ahead as we address the remaining effects of Hurricane Sandy. We will begin renovations in 726 Broadway to create a new space for the Physics Department, and we will begin renovations at 383 Lafayette to create a combined, one-stop space for the Registrar, Bursar, Financial Aid, and Student Housing to improve students’ experience in dealing with the administrative side of the University. We will complete our merger with Poly and restore engineering as a discipline to NYU for the first time in four decades. We are welcoming our first class to the Center for Urban Science and Progress, to the Global Institute of Public Health, and to our NYU Shanghai campus this fall. Next spring we will graduate our first NYU Abu Dhabi class even as we move to the newly built NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island. And, no doubt, fired by the entrepreneurial spirit that is so much a part of our character, we will see other important, new initiatives out of departments and schools that will require our attention.

NYU is a great university, filled with energetic, vibrant, passionate, talented faculty and students in whom we can all take pride (to see some of their stories, click here. As we start a new academic year, you can also keep up with what’s going on at NYU day-to-day, including important announcements, by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter).

The start of a school year is always a joyful time for me, a beginning filled with promise. I wish you all the best of luck in your studies and your work in 2013-14. I feel privileged to be part of this vibrant community and honored to be its president. I look forward to meeting and working together with many of you in the coming months. Take care of yourselves and one another, and have a wonderful year.