Letter to the Trustee Subcommittee

April 30, 2013

We are writing to thank you for meeting with us on April 15th, and to reiterate our request for a copy of the subcommittee report, when it is complete. Making the report available would set a model tone for the open, transparent culture we think needs to be introduced more generally to NYU. In addition, we would like to reiterate our view that, as a step towards the creation of such an open governing culture, a faculty-trustee committee is necessary. This will be particularly important in the search for a new president, to be undertaken, we hope, in the near future.

We would also like to take the opportunity to urge the Trustees not to minimize the breadth and depth of the faculty’s loss of confidence in John Sexton. Even among faculty not committed to a vote of no confidence, there is real concern about John Sexton’s loss of credibility within the University itself. And this concern is not limited to FAS. Last week, the faculty in Gallatin and Steinhardt both voted by wide margins to conduct a vote of no confidence. This week, the Silver School of Social Work voted the same way, and Tisch faculty are expected to do the same. The votes are unlikely to end there. When faculty are allowed to express their opinions freely, without fear of reprisals from their chairs and deans, we believe the majority will voice their lack of confidence in the current president.

In our estimation, one anecdote will suffice to remind us all of the perils of ignoring faculty opinion. On the eve of the GSOC-UAW strike in the Fall of 2005, a group of faculty (some of us were there) met with John Sexton. We pleaded with him to take action to avert the strike. But the administration took a unilateral decision to break the union, expressly against the majority faculty support for respecting the democratic right of graduate employees to choose their own representation. We warned the president that the strike would put the campus in turmoil for the entire academic year, and that the exposure would stain NYU’s reputation. The union would not go away, we pointed out, and the legacy of his decision would leave bitter divisions on campus for many years to come. Our advice was not taken, and all of these things have come to pass, exactly as we predicted. For many of us and our colleagues, President’s Sexton’s disregard for faculty opinion at that time was the first of a series of grave mis-steps that have led to the votes of no confidence and the current impasse.

The trustees can prudently avoid the same mistakes this time around by heeding, and acting decisively on, the faculty’s desire to see the appointment of a less divisive president. We cannot overstate the urgent need to restore faculty morale, modernize the university’s culture, and re-build NYU’s reputation.
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Yours Respectfully,

Andrew Ross, president, NYU-AAUP

Molly Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP

Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP

Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP

Rebecca Karl, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP