Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2015
From: NYU President John Sexton
Re: The Start of Academic Year 2015-16

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I always have loved the start of the academic year and the sense of joy, excitement, and renewal that accompanies the resumption of classes. This year is no exception; indeed, it has a special feel to it.

Let me start by welcoming the new members of our community. You are joining a wonderful university community, and we are glad to have you here. You will find that this is a place dedicated to helping you thrive.

To those who are returning: welcome back. I look forward to seeing you and to hearing where your studies, research, and work took you over the summer and where it will take you this year.

This is my fourteenth Fall semester as NYU’s president, and my last. In January, Andrew Hamilton, Oxford University’s current leader, becomes NYU’s sixteenth president. He is an accomplished university leader, a highly regarded scientist, and a person of great energy, wisdom, intelligence, and personal warmth – NYU’s future will be in exceptionally good hands.

From my very first days as president, I have felt a powerful sense of responsibility to think of my successors as we made decisions and to prepare the University for its next stage – even as we created progress and advancement in our time. Between now and Andy’s arrival, we should not pause; rather, we should continue the work of recent years, years that have seen NYU move to a level that has enabled us to attract Andy and others of his caliber to our community.

As we prepare for the semester, let me note some of the new elements you will notice if you have been here and some of the factors that will shape our experience.

The Freshman Class

NYU received over 60,000 applications for the Class of 2019 – our eighth year in a row of record applicants. This has produced a phenomenal freshman class, with greater diversity and higher academic qualifications than any other. And, we should be proud—they will be supported with more financial aid than previous entering classes, the results of our fundraising efforts.

Student Life and Wellness

As part of a new program, the Wasserman Center for Career Development will provide $500,000 in stipends to students for internships that are not funded by their employers, making it easier for students with financial needs to take internships they might otherwise have had to turn down. And this fall Wasserman is launching an early career engagement and mentorship program aimed at first generation college-goers (some 20% of our freshman class are the first in the family to go to college).

And, in an area of great importance to our community, we will build this semester on the steps we took last year to reduce sexual misconduct on campus by requiring all incoming students to complete a mandatory on-line educational module; requiring all RA's, Club Presidents, Greek Leaders, Admissions Ambassadors, and Varsity Athletes to complete training in bystander intervention strategies and techniques; and providing additional face-to-face workshops for students throughout the year on a voluntary basis.

We have expanded programming substantially as part of our efforts to create a comprehensive academic community. By way of example, as of this fall, all but one of our student residence halls has at least one faculty member in residence, 29 faculty in all (up from only two faculty members 12 years ago).

And finally, I know that over the last year issues of social justice have been at the forefront of the minds of many students (and faculty, administrators, and staff). Our educational mission is not limited to the classroom or the textbook; it resides, too, in how we conduct ourselves as a community. NYU has sought to create an inclusive and diverse community so that you may learn from one another, particularly by engaging with people who are unlike you. And as you listen and learn and discuss and debate, as you seek ways to make our university community and our society’s institutions better and more just, I hope you will act in accord not only with our traditions of free exchange but in keeping with our belief in the power of civility, respect, and thoughtfulness.

NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai

Even as we start our year here in New York, we welcome as well our colleagues, peers, and friends in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai at the start of their fall semesters. Both campuses are thriving, with remarkable students and faculty forming wonderful scholarly communities.

NYU Abu Dhabi’s second graduating class of 141 graduates from 53 countries included recipients of two Rhodes Scholarships and the recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, among other honors. The campus had an excellent year in terms of admissions, and in September welcomed a wonderfully diverse freshman class of some 300 students, including its largest group of Emirati students to date. And this year will be the debut season for NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center, which will prove to be an important arts venue in the region.

NYU Shanghai also has an outstanding entering class this year. Its Junior class will be studying away throughout our global sites this year, with over 150 NYU Shanghai students studying here in New York City, adding the academic vibrancy of their campus to the Washington Square campus. At the same time, 100 NYU students will be studying away in Shanghai this academic year. In addition, student life at NYU Shanghai continues to blossom with a new residence hall, Green Center Towers, a new fitness facility in the Academic Building, and over 40 student organizations energizing an active social and cultural community life.

New and Renovated Facilities

Following this summer’s unanimous ruling by New York’s highest court in favor of NYU, planning has continued on the redevelopment of the Coles Sports and Recreation Center site. Coles will stay open through at least November 15. More information on memberships and alternative facilities while the site is under construction will be coming this fall, as will additional information about the construction timetable.

Work is underway to make 404 Lafayette St ready as an interim fitness and exercise center during the coming period of construction on the Coles site. The current Coles facility will not close until the work on 404 Lafayette is completed.

Hayden Hall, one of our freshman residences, has reopened after a 15-month renovation. Prominent among the improvements is the creation of a new, large, state-of-the-art lounge for our commuter students. It features a kitchen, an event space, and a high tech auditorium for community programming.

Early this semester, we will open the LaGuardia Studio on LaGuardia Place between West 3rd and Bleecker Streets. It will be one of the most advanced university 3D printing facilities, providing professional 3D printing services, 3D scanning, wide-format archival digital pigment printmaking, project development consultation, and a suite of self-service work stations.

Nearby, we will also open the LaGuardia Co-op this fall – a modern redefinition of the computer lab. Designed in conjunction with the Student Senators Council, the Co-op will have not only computers but also flexible spaces for collaborative work, demonstrations, and events. It will be the home for future hackathons.

And we are opening the NYU Production Lab at 16 Washington Place—in the lower level of the Leslie eLab. The Production Lab will foster connections between NYU’s emerging artists and the media and entertainment industry by providing collaboration, mentorship, experiential learning opportunities, and financial resources to support the production of cinematic works.

Work continues on 60 Fifth Avenue (the Forbes Building) – which will provide much needed academic space – and on 383 Lafayette, which will create a one-stop hub for offices students frequently interact with, including Financial Aid, the Registrar, and the Bursar. They are slated to open later in 2015-16.

This fall several new facilities for students will open at our Brooklyn campus: Student Link Center in Brooklyn, providing one-stop services for the Registrar, Financial Aid, and the Bursar; Student Health Center site, offering primary care and counseling services; and, Wasserman Career Center site that will work closely with the School of Engineering.

Faculty of Health
Over the summer, the Board of Trustees approved the creation of a Faculty of Health, which will include the College of Dentistry, a newly created College of Global Public Health, and the College of Nursing, which was granted full college status. Over the fall, work will continue on the development of these academic units.

A Tribute to Provost David McLaughlin
David McLaughlin, who has served as NYU’s provost since 2002, recently informed me of his plans to leave the position of provost after this academic year and return to the faculty of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and join the faculty of the Polytechnic School of Engineering and the affiliated faculty of NYU Shanghai.

An outstanding mathematician and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Dave has served NYU with devotion and distinction as provost, director of the Courant Institute, and Silver Professor of Mathematics and Neural Science. He oversaw NYU’s largest expansion of tenured faculty in the arts and sciences and a major increase in federal research funds, focused on improving teaching and learning, and was a champion for important new academic initiatives, including restoring engineering to NYU after a 40-year hiatus. He designed and implemented the research institute of NYU Abu Dhabi and led NYU’s team in the discussions with the governments of Pudong and Shanghai, resulting in the establishment of NYU Shanghai. He was, above all, our academic conscience, demanding excellence and rigor in all our research and teaching and learning and bringing the faculty point of view to all our deliberations. A man of personal modesty, he possesses fierce institutional ambitions for NYU, and he has helped steer NYU to the academic heights it has achieved.

I would ask you to join me in thanking Dave for his service. He has been not only a great provost but a good colleague, a valued adviser, an exceptional University citizen, and a cherished friend. This is our year to stop him on the street to shake his hand or to write him a note of gratitude.

In the near future, additional information will be forthcoming about the establishment of a committee to conduct the search for Dave’s successor, which will convene this semester.

A Short Coda

There is so very much I could say about my years as president, but for once, I will play against type and keep it brief.

There is so very much I could say about my years as president, but for once, I will play against type and keep it brief.

Not every moment has been easy, but I have loved every minute of this assignment. It has been fulfilling in ways I did not know were possible. I have been honored to serve as your president, grateful for your support and your constructive criticism, and glad to have a chance to meet, teach, learn from, and come to know so many of you. Few, if any, aspects of my professional life have filled me with greater pride than my affiliation with NYU, and I am grateful for the faith the University community and the Board placed in me. I have done my best to live up to it.

Thank you for your comradeship, your faith, and your support.

Following this final semester as your president, and even as I begin my duties as president emeritus and as an active faculty member, I will begin a six-month appointment at the Library of Congress as the Kluge Chair in American Law and Governance. Then, I will return fully to teaching at NYU, my first and abiding love. I look forward to rejoining this community and doing whatever I can to support its future.

Take care of yourselves, and of one another. Don’t be afraid to reach out and offer a hand to a fellow member of the NYU community, or to ask for help.

Let’s all do our best this fall. Good luck with your studies, your research, and all the projects and interests that keep NYU such a vibrant and exciting university.


John Sexton