Response to the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) from NYU Senior Vice President for Public Affairs John Beckman.

Washington Square Arch

Thursday, September 5, 2019


Dear GSOC,

Like you, the University believes that the learning environment should be free from harassment, discrimination, and abuse. And we take seriously the issues that you have raised in your letter.

That said, your letter overlooks a number of important steps taken by NYU. For reasons of privacy, it is the University’s practice not to discuss the details of personnel matters (this is true in the case of those represented by GSOC, too). Speaking generally, though, the University responded promptly after hearing from the complainant; investigated the matter thoroughly; and the outcome included a substantial sanction and ongoing supervision, all of which has been reported publicly.

Following the completion of her year’s suspension, Professor Ronell will be returning to her faculty duties, including teaching, in fall 2019. If we believed that she – or any other faculty member – could not conduct her classroom duties professionally, we would not permit him or her to be in a classroom. In this case, Professor Ronell's interactions with students will be monitored to ensure that she has absorbed the lessons of her misconduct and to ensure that she has rectified her behavior and that her interactions with students are in line with NYU's professional expectations.

This matter has raised broader questions, as you note, about the appropriate, professional conduct that should exist between faculty and doctoral advisees. The dean of GSAS, Phil Harper, has been reviewing this topic, and this past spring GSAS finalized guidelines for faculty on mentoring doctoral students. These will serve as the basis for a handbook on the mentoring of doctoral students across the entire University that will be developed during the coming academic year.

We have read your letter carefully, and will take your proposals under advisement. With respect to those proposals, we do want to note the following:

  • All University employees are required by law to complete online sexual harassment training annually, in compliance with NYS law.

  • While we do encourage callers to the Bias Response Line to share their identities, anonymous reports are also followed up. In addition, complaints can be made anonymously though the OEO complaint form and through NYU’s Compliance Hotline (though, again, we encourage people to submit identifying information so that we can follow up).

  • NYU has made substantial investments in establishing the S.P.A.C.E resource, and it has proven to be a successful and valuable resource for those in the NYU community who have experienced sexual misconduct. In addition, NYU has extensive counseling resources with counselors specially trained to deal with trauma.

  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity have been a priority for the University and remain so. In recent years, NYU appointed its first Chief Diversity Officer, reporting directly to the president, established her office, and expanded and provided additional funding for CMEP. These efforts have included focusing on diversity in hiring, which has significantly improved, and in student recruitment (this year’s incoming freshman class is the most diverse in NYU’s history).

We take this case, like all cases of sexual misconduct, seriously, and respond accordingly.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us.

Sincerely,

John Beckman
Sr. Vice President for Public Affairs