FROM: John Sexton
RE: This Past Academic Year, and the Year to Come

Since the start of the semester, even as the main work of the University – research, teaching, learning, recruitment of faculty, and admission of new students – has carried on, there has been a multi-layered debate about many aspects of NYU, including university governance, faculty involvement, NYU’s global network, the 2031 Space Plan, online education, and my leadership.

In this letter I will offer an update on those topics, but I would like to begin with an overarching reflection: To be sure, there are substantive disagreements and differing views within our community. Higher education is operating in an environment of intense change and the choices we make are invariably subject to debate and discussion. However, underlying many of the debates this year is a failure of communication. And, when I cite communication, I mean much more than delivering speeches and sending letters.

Faculty involvement early in the University’s decision-making process, supported by facts that are effectively communicated, will significantly improve every decision. Yet, for various reasons, our structures – and sometimes our own attitudes – have prevented an effective dialogue. This must change.

With that in mind, I have been thinking hard about what can be done to better facilitate true dialogue among all stakeholders at NYU and, in particular, between faculty and the University administration. In the list below I offer a status report of what we have done so far, as well as some other possibilities for progress next year:

  • Last December the administration and the Faculty Senators Council agreed to “Principles of Shared Governance” which were subsequently ratified by the University Board of Trustees. These principles will go far in structuring the relationship between the administration and FSC to assure proper notice of proposals and decisions and opportunity for meaningful consultation with the faculty representatives.
  • A series of committees was formed (with local membership nominated by the deans) to consider the plans for the Global Network University; the ways in which the University would use the opportunity for added space granted by the City Council; and the uses of educational technology at NYU. All these committees have virtually unfettered access to background information and their deliberations are as transparent as possible. I encourage everyone to be involved in this process, by contacting committee representatives from your schools or constituent bodies (the Faculty Senators Council, Student Senators Council, and Administrative Management Council) and/or submitting comments on their websites.
  • A Special Committee of the Board of NYU has recently concluded 17 meetings with a wide-ranging set of NYU stakeholders—faculty, students, administrators, and alumni. As Chairman Martin Lipton stated in his recent email, the Committee will communicate directly with all of us about their findings in the coming months. However, the Special Committee has already indicated its intention to use the input from these meetings to formulate proposals over the summer for structural changes in our governance that will allow for increased input from and communication among all stakeholders at NYU. This is an important project and I anticipate that the proposals will be distributed for all of us to consider and comment upon early in the fall.
  • It is very important that we find a way for full-time, non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) to be adequately represented in our University governance system. Discussion of this matter has largely been confined to faculty groups so far. However, I have been clear since the beginning of my presidency that I strongly believe in representation for full-time, non-tenure track faculty, and the University community must find a way to resolve this issue so that all faculty feel represented.
  • Similarly, we must find a way to integrate the faculties, students, and administrators of Poly and of Abu Dhabi and Shanghai into the University governance structure.
  • And as we work to develop ways for improving our governance structure, we will want to be sure that the voices of the University’s student bodies are also adequately represented in our councils.
  • As I noted, there is a need for me and the administration of the University to increase the level of direct dialogue with the faculty.
    • Each year I will be requesting opportunities for myself, the Provost, and other senior members of the University leadership to appear at meetings of each school’s faculty or faculty council to explain face-to-face the University’s current course, to answer faculty questions, and to hear from faculty representatives about the concerns of their departments and schools.
    • Since the beginning of my presidency, I have met periodically each year with the senior management of the University for a 2-3 day retreat called Common Days. It is an opportunity to update each other on major initiatives and to share perspectives on how to best advance the mission of NYU. Starting next year, I will begin holding the same sort of interactive meeting with the collected faculty councils and department chairs from the schools. I am not yet sure how often each grouping will meet, but I am hoping this will occur at least once a year, if not more.
    • Using social media and email updates we will endeavor to serve two goals: Share the aspirations and successes of our colleagues; and, secondly, update you on the projects and considerations of the administration. You can already access the Communications web page or sign up for the NYU Twitter feed or ‘like’ NYU on Facebook.

Finally, I want to address the issue of my leadership. I wish everyone in the University community, but my faculty colleagues in particular, to know that I take their concerns seriously, and that addressing them in a responsive and substantial manner is a high priority for me. As stated above, our University must come up with new and better ways to involve faculty earlier in our major decisions.

Whatever reservations some faculty may continue to have about me, I trust they know that my efforts over the last 32 years as a faculty member, dean, and now president have had one principal aim: advancing and improving this great University. However different our viewpoints, I believe that the faculty shares this aim as well.

Some have expressed confidence in me and others have expressed a lack of confidence. Throughout this year, though, I never took issue directly with critics. That is because I have confidence in our faculty, and I have confidence that after a full and thoughtful debate - and changes based thereupon - our community will improve as a result of this process.

As various debates evolved, the administration and I at times endeavored to lay out basic information that could inform the discussions and assure that all involved could communicate on a factual basis (for example, see here for a rundown on University data). In 2004 I wrote a reflection to the campus called “University as Sanctuary” that framed my fundamental views on the nature of debate in the University:

As I conceive it, dialogue is characterized by a commitment to understand and engage, through reasoned and civil intercourse, even the most provocative challenges to one’s point of view. This entails listening and respecting, accepting what is well founded in the criticisms offered by others and defending one’s own position, where appropriate, against them; it is both the offer of and the demand for argument and evidence.

With those principles in mind – that the dialogue be evidence-based and that it be respectful of all participants - I look forward to continuing to work with you – faculty, students, administrators, and staff -- on the future of our great University.

This year has been a successful one for admissions, for the recruitment and retention of faculty, and for fundraising. We have welcomed a new Law School dean – the esteemed Constitutional scholar Trevor Morrison -- started new initiatives, and made progress on University priorities. Here is a brief overview of some of this year’s accomplishments and of items that will be on the University’s agenda next year.

Admissions for Fall 2013

We had over 48,000 applicants for freshman admission in fall 2013 – a record. This is NYU’s sixth year in a row of record applications, and a 12% increase over 2012, though we are planning for a smaller freshman class this coming fall than entered in 2012 -- about 4,850 students, compared with 4,940. Our acceptance rate declined by four percentage points – to 31% -- compared with last year, and we expect this class to have the highest academic qualifications of any prior class. And from among these applicants we will welcome our first class at NYU Shanghai, which begins classes this coming fall.

Fundraising and Scholarship Aid

Over the past 10 years, we have raised resources for NYU’s research and educational enterprise at a rate of over $1 million per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year. The results of this fundraising have enabled us to expand our tenured and tenure-track faculty, pursue new areas of academic inquiry, and provide new facilities for teaching, learning, and research. In 2012, we raised $400 million – our best year since the economic turmoil of 2008-09, and the third highest yearly total in NYU history.

Paying for college, financial aid, and student debt are a major topic of conversation on our campus; though we have increased undergraduate financial aid by over 130% over the last 10 years and provide more than $190 million/year in NYU grant aid, we are still not where we want to be. NYU has no higher fundraising priority than scholarship aid. This past year, as part of the $400 million we raised overall, we raised $112 million for scholarship aid – our best year ever for financial aid fundraising, and nearly twice as much as we raised for financial aid 10 years ago. In 2013-14, we expect to announce a major targeted fundraising campaign focused solely on scholarship aid, which we expect will be the largest of its kind in NYU history. I look forward to going into more detail about it in the fall.

Research Support, Science, and Research

This past year, in consultation with the science department chairs, the Provost’s Office developed and piloted two data 'dashboards' - one for use by faculty who are principal investigators on grants so that they can easily manage federally-awarded research funds, and one for deans and department chairs that allows them to use metrics to assess current departmental status, recognize and celebrate accomplishments, and provide a foundation for setting realistic and attainable goals for the department.

In order to maximize faculty members’ chances of success in securing federal support for center- and institute-based research, we have also launched the 'mega-grants initiative,' which provides $50,000 in seed funding to better enable faculty to prepare large grant proposals – in the range of $2 million to $25 million.

Renovations will start in 730 Broadway to provide new space for the Physics Department. The space formerly occupied by Physics will be freed up and renovated to house the departments of Psychology and Neural Science in the Meyer Building, and enable new faculty hires in those areas. Next year, our cognitive sciences group will also take delivery of a new, state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging device to propel its research.

Next year, the Laboratory of Molecular Nanoscience in the Chemistry Department will open its doors, enhancing our groundbreaking research in probing molecular structures at the nanoscale.

Joint programs between the Center for Neural Science, the Psychology Department and the School of Medicine are moving forward under a university-wide initiative, enhancing our excellence in areas that include cognitive neuroscience, systems and molecular neuroscience, neural and behavioral genetics, and the neuroscience of disease.

In the coming year, the Center for Data Science -- under the leadership of Professor Yann LeCunn – will add new faculty, initiate new MS and PhD Programs, and is expected to benefit from an array of funding opportunities from industry, foundations, and the federal government.

Coordinated faculty hiring is taking place among New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai, as well as new joint collaborative research projects -- at NYU Abu Dhabi involving the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, the Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, and research teams in atmosphere ocean science; and at NYU Shanghai planned research programs and centers in neuroscience, computational chemistry, and mathematics.

At the heart of our research enterprise is our faculty. So I am pleased to share with you the report I received from the dean of FAS: that during this academic year and last, we succeeded in retaining scholars – who had received offers from universities such as Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, and Oxford – in 29 out of 29 instances.


In 2013-14, we will be strengthening the Center for Teaching Excellence, which provides professional development for faculty in fulfilling our teaching mission. We will be adding new staff, starting to make digital media offerings available to faculty, expanding orientations for new faculty preparing to teach their first NYU course, expanding the Center’s consultation services, and strengthening existing programming to assist faculty with their teaching, including workshops, conferences, and seminars. And we will build a leadership network of experienced faculty – including past winners of NYU’s teaching excellence award – to provide mentoring and counseling on effective teaching.


Our programs supporting student and faculty entrepreneurship have greatly expanded in recent years.

Participation and interest in NYU’s annual venture competition, the Entrepreneurs Challenge, has exploded to almost 500 student participants, comprising 170 team entrants drawn from 14 different NYU schools. The four winning teams were awarded a total of $200,000 earlier in May. And our Entrepreneurs Festival drew over 750 attendees from across the NYU community for this 2-day event in March.

This year, NYU, together with CUNY and Columbia, was awarded a $3.74 million grant from the NSF to develop the regional node for the agency’s I-Corps program, which trains academic researchers from around the country to develop their scientific and engineering discoveries into economically viable products and startups.

This summer, we are introducing the NYU Summer Launchpad, a 10-week program where ten student startup teams from across NYU will come together and receive training, mentorship and co-working space to accelerate their new ventures. Participating projects focus on a range of topics, including healthcare, education, consumer and enterprise applications. In addition, our city-supported incubators have had a collective economic impact of more than $250M since opening in 2009. Three NYU-affiliated start-up companies have been acquired to date, and 500 students from across the university have gained hands-on startup experience through incubator internships. The new "PowerBridge NY" proof of concept center has been seeded by a $5M grant from NYSERDA to help move faculty research from the lab to the market.

Finally, this year we launched a "grand challenge" competition in which faculty teams competed for up to three awards of $250,000 each to work on major societal challenges. Thirty-two faculty teams entered the competition, with winners to be announced this summer.

NYU in Brooklyn: NYU-Poly, CUSP, and MAGNET

NYU-Poly: In 2013-14, we should come to a successful conclusion of an important project we started nearly six years ago to return engineering to NYU: the former Polytechnic University will become the Polytechnic School of Engineering at NYU. We are particularly fortunate to have at NYU-Poly’s helm at this moment an outstanding new leader, Katepalli Sreenivasan. An experimental physicist and a member of both the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering, as president of Poly and Dean of Engineering, he is charting and has already begun pursuing a course that will steadily enhance excellence at NYU-Poly and put it on the same academic trajectory as NYU.

CUSP: In the year since Mayor Bloomberg designated the Center for Urban Science and Progress one of the winners of the City’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative and we announced Steve Koonin as its director, CUSP has moved into new space in MetroTech Center, created new partnerships with national laboratories, selected an architect to transform an old MTA building into its permanent home, and begun to take its place as the leader in the field of urban informatics. And next fall it will welcome its first Masters students.

MAGNET: In fall 2013, we will open the Media and Games Network in Brooklyn’s MetroTech Center. The first facility at NYU to co-locate faculty from several different schools, it will not only bring together faculty and students from NYU-Poly, Tisch, Steinhardt, and Courant whose research and teaching spans both the technology and cultural applications of game, it will also provide a blueprint for how we may be able to foster additional cross-school collaborations in the future.

Operations: Space, Construction, and Safety

Much of the activity on space next year will be focused on the report of the University Space Priorities Working Group, which is expected to issue an interim report at the end of this semester and a final report next fall focusing on the Washington Square Village and Silver Towers superblocks. Beyond that:

  • Planning will start in earnest in 2013-14 on the use of the Forbes building, of which the University will take possession in 2015. It will provide much needed academic space for programs.
  • Work continues on the new building at 433 First Avenue, which will provide a new home for the College of Nursing, additional research space for the College of Dentistry, and a location for a new collaboration in bio-engineering among NYU-Poly, the School of Medicine, and the College of Dentistry. That facility will open in 2015.

The disruptions of Hurricane Sandy and the sorrowful tragedy in Newtown, CT are events from which our campus should draw lessons. In 2013-14, our Operations Division, which includes our Department of Public Safety, will be initiating a campaign to make all of us more aware of safety issues, how to be better prepared, and how to respond when the unthinkable occurs, as well as moving forward with recommendations that came out of their review of our response to Hurricane Sandy (PDF).

The NYU Langone Medical Center

Hurricane Sandy was certainly disruptive at our Washington Square campus – a week of cancelled classes, dislocation and tough conditions for students and faculty in our housing, and disruptions to research – but it was truly devastating for our medical center, which had to evacuate patients at the height of the storm and then cease operations for weeks, along with other nearby hospitals such as Bellevue and the VA Hospital.

Thanks to the extraordinary dedication of NYU Langone leadership, faculty, and staff – and the indispensable assistance of elected representatives, including Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Representative Maloney, King, Lowey, and Crowley, Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and state and city officials, including the staff of the federal Department of Homeland Security and the NYS Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services – approximately 75% of the hospital’s services were up and running by late December, and the hospital was fully re-opened by mid-January, the first of the affected hospitals to do so. The vast majority of the research infrastructure that was damaged has also been restored, as have the educational programs for our medical students. Special thanks go to scientists at Washington Square who found temporary space for their displaced colleagues from the Medical Center.

We will honor all this effort and heroism at Commencement by awarding the Lewis Rudin Award for Exemplary Service to New York City to the nurses of NYU Langone Medical Center. In addition to the nurses, I also want to note the tremendous – and largely unsung -- effort put forth by our Medical School students, who worked all through that difficult night to ensure that the patients were evacuated safely and quickly. We are proud of them.

New Institutes: The Global Institute for Public Health, and the Marron Institute

This year we announced the creation of the Global Institute for Public Health, and recruited Cheryl Healton, a professional with great stature in the public health field, as its director and as Dean of Global Public Health. In the coming academic year, GIPH -- which will focus on the health of populations around the world, and particularly those in areas where there are shortages of health professionals and health delivery – will move its interdisciplinary research efforts forward with the recruitment of a number of faculty members who will be jointly appointed to GIPH and participating schools.

And this spring the University announced the creation of the Marron Institute on Cities and the Urban Environment. In the coming year, the institute – which was established through a founding gift of $40 million from Donald Marron – will expand its efforts to tap NYU’s extensive and growing scholarship in the study of cities in order to sponsor interdisciplinary research, develop and coordinate curricular initiatives, and foster engagement on cities.


In 2013-14, there will be four priorities for our global programs, all of which involve improvement of our existing initiatives, rather than the establishment of new ones:

  • There will be considerable focus on the work of the Faculty Advisory Committee on NYU’s Global Network, which will review and assess the academic aspects of our global programs to ensure they are achieving our high standards.
  • We will open NYU Shanghai as our newest degree-granting portal campus, and will welcome both our first freshman class there and our first chaired professor outside of New York: Yuxin Chen – who came to NYU Shanghai from Northwestern’s Kellog School -- as the Wenliang Wang Distinguished Global Professor of Business.
  • Our Office of Global Programs will be firming up the connections it is building between academic departments at Washington Square and our Study Away sites. And,
  • NYU Abu Dhabi will graduate its first class, which will take place on the grounds of the new campus built on Saadiyat Island, which will welcome all the NYUAD students in fall 2014.

Budget Parameters for 2013-2014

The economic pressures on universities, driven by the rising cost of benefits such as health care – which has a disproportionate impact on a personnel-intensive enterprise, such as higher education – and ongoing academic and technology investments continue to drive increases in the budget. As we do each year, we consulted on next year’s budget with the Faculty Senators Council, the Administrative Management Council, and the Student Senators Council through the Senate Financial Affairs Committee, the Deans, and the senior administrative leadership of the University. We have brought the results of those consultations to the Finance Committee of the Board of Trustees. They are recommending to the Board of Trustees a budget for the coming year with the following parameters, which must still be approved by the Board in June.

Undergraduate tuition, fees, and room and board — For the 2013-14 academic year, we have budgeted an increase of 3.8% in tuition and mandatory fees, and 3.5% in room and board; the aggregate increase in the cost of attendance will be 3.7%.

Financial Aid — Undergraduate financial aid will increase by 4.0%. In addition, fully-funded graduate students will continue to receive full tuition remission; have premiums for their graduate health care plan paid by the University; and their minimum stipend will be increased by 3.0%.

Salary actions for faculty and for administrators —We expect the Board of Trustees to approve an Annual Merit Increase (AMI) pool totaling 3.0% for merit-based increases for faculty and 2.75% for administrators for academic year 2013-14. For administrators, as in the past, there will be a pool equal to 0.5% of the salary base for annual and “spot” bonuses for particularly meritorious performance.


And so, I want to wish all our students good luck as they take their final examinations and complete their end-of-year work.

I want to congratulate our graduating students on their achievements, and wish them well as they join their chosen fields or professions or go on to further study. We are very proud of you. We hope you will keep NYU in your hearts, as you will be in ours.

I want to honor our entire faculty for the hard work they do, for their dedication to our students, for the high academic standards they ensure the University upholds, and for their engagement in University life.

I want to thank all the administrators and staff members for their commitment and dedication, and for all they do day-in-and-day-out to support the University’s research and teaching missions.

And, lastly, to all those members of the NYU community who will be returning next fall: enjoy your summer break. I look forward to welcoming all of you back for the fall 2013 semester.

John Sexton