11 responses

  1. Marilyn Stults
    July 5, 2012

    NYU has spent an enormous amount of money on consultants, studies, plans, drawings, etc. without so much as approval to build a tool shed. This grandiose planning is indicative of the university administration's lack of plain old common business sense, and shows a callous disregard for its donors, its trustees, its alumni and, most of all, its faculty. Many NYU departments have voted against the 2031 Expansion Plan as financially irresponsible. It's time that John Sexton and his backers be called to account! This situation is looking more and more like "the Emperor's New Clothes."

  2. Truth_To_Power
    July 5, 2012

    Speaking of the NYU faculty, the present contributor counted among them … Historically, it would be virtually unthinkable for a university to proceed with expansion, especially one as massive and as costly as NYU 2031, without faculty support. And yet, not only is there little to no faculty support in the present instance, there is, in fact, widespread and intense criticism. As of this week, 35 NYU Departments, Divisions and Schools – and counting – have voted in favor of individual resolutions, voicing their staunch opposition to the two-decade-long behemoth of an expansion.

    The Departments expressing their profound concern with the expansion range from Economics (which includes no fewer than 3 Nobel Prize winners), Politics, History, Art History, Comparative Literature, Classics, French Studies, Italian Studies, East Asian Studies, and Music to Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Chemistry and Mathematics. Entire Schools and Centers voting against the Plan include the Stern Business School (by the overwhelming count of 52-3, which should tell the public something about the financial feasibility of Sexton’s $ 4-6 billion-dollar plan … considerably more than our modest endowment), the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, the Silver School of Social Work and the Center for Neural Science. The large majority of departmental votes have been unanimous. Meanwhile, a Faculty Senate Council survey from this spring found that 85% of all voting faculty in NYU’s oldest school, the College of Arts and Science, was opposed to the plan. While the wording of every departmental resolution is different, the spirit behind each one is the same: We, the NYU faculty, believe that the current administration is endangering the intellectual and fiscal health of the University, in light of the scale, unjustified academic purpose, threat to faculty retention and recruitment and enormous cost of the planned expansion. (For all of the individual resolutions, see: http://nyufasp.com/ ).

    The majority of departmental votes have been unanimous. Meanwhile, a Faculty Senate Council survey this spring determined that about two-thirds of all the voting faculty at NYU – and 85% of voting faculty in NYU’s oldest school, the College of Arts and Science – were opposed to the plan. As most readers can appreciate, it is difficult to overstate just how extraordinary the department-by-department expression of faculty opposition to Sexton’s 2031 Plan really is. Or what a risk faculty are taking, especially those who are untenured, to officially register their opposition to the recklessness of Sexton’s plan. To be sure, this groundswell is absolutely unprecedented – on anything approaching the current scale – at NYU. And it is only growing in volume and intensity with every passing week as we approach the critical City Council vote, as more and more faculty come to grips with the gravity of the current threat to the well-being of our University, to say nothing of the well-being of our surrounding neighborhood and its marvelous diversity, whether expressed in its people and small businesses or its distinctive architecture and neighborhood gardens and playgrounds. While unprecedented, it is not difficult to explain the growing swell of faculty voices, perhaps best expressed by the formation of NYUFASP (NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan), an organization numbering over 415 members: The stakes simply cannot be higher, both for the well-being of NYU and that of the neighborhood that has so long sustained our school.

    The most important distinction to draw here is that between the faculty’s commitment to NYU the University and its educational mission and NYU the global brand and real estate-hungry corporation. While we, as faculty, feel great love and devotion for the former, we have nothing but profound concern for the true motivations of the latter, especially in these uncertain times, as we continue to live through the most severe economic crisis in eighty years. The only rationale that we have heard voiced by our administration in the five years since NYU 2031 was publicly introduced is that our University must grow because, well, it must grow … presumably to stay competitive compete with the smaller, leaner and exceedingly more richly endowed academic institutions (which admit 10%-15% of its applicant pools to NYU’s roughly 30% and have but a fraction of NYU’s student body) that invest their resources in their academic missions, rather than their footprints alone. “And, by the way, there may never be a better time in the history of the world to do construction in New York City than this next five-year period or so,” President Sexton told a group of NYU students in a town-hall setting earlier this year, “because interest rates are so low and that’s what affects our mortgage and construction costs are so low.” It is the faculty’s core belief, however, that our University’s educational mission should not be driven by low interest rates. We are better than that, and we must demand better. Above all else, we must demand a fairer shake for our students.

  3. Truth_To_Power
    July 5, 2012

    To conclude … How do you think the NYU administration plans to pay for its expansion-gamble, given that philanthropy would be a mere drop in the bucket? You guessed it. Admitting still larger student classes to increase what is already the largest student body of any private university in the U.S. and hiking already-punishing tuition rates (over $55,000/yr and climbing) would be a disgrace. On this, any serious educator would agree. But the decisions recklessly being pushed forward by NYU with regard to its expansion are not being made solely by educators. And therein lies the biggest problem.

    All the while, what the public might not yet be aware of is that NYU has already been expanding by 290,000 sq. feet every year … for the last ten years. Somewhat amazingly, the administration is using this alarming figure to convince our City Council that the University now desperately needs ANOTHER 2.2 million sq. feet of new space into the already-heavily populated Super Blocks. The administration's appetite for space isn't yet satiated. Far from it. One is left to wonder: Is NYU becoming like a shark that has to keep swimming and feeding to even sustain itself? If a university continues to admit more and more students, thus relaxing its admissions standards in the process (and devalue the degree for all alumni), so as to collect more tuition dollars and then proceed to argue that it must now build bigger, higher and wider to accommodate its student explosion … then, sadly, the answer is of course "Yes."

    Meanwhile, there is the issue of squandered space. Since when is it honest for the NYU administration to demand more space to house new faculty (to replace the distinguished faculty who will defect to other institutions, so as to avoid raising their families in a two-decade-long, dust-choked construction zone) when there are approximately 70 apartments (sitting empty in the Washington Sq Village, with another 30 of so vacant units in Silver Towers? We are talking about 90-100 wasted apartments here! Apartments that any New Yorker would kill for.

    To put it starkly, NYU is in danger of stretching itself to breaking point, fiscally and academically — and not only on the Square. Pres. Sexton has conceived a new kind of NYU student: that of the “global circulatory” variety. A growing number of our undergraduates, in fact, now have no intention of spending more than one year in New York over the course of their four years. In short, the octopus-like aspect of Sexton’s crusade to realize his vision of a multi-satellite Global Network University – in which “NYU NY” is a “portal” to places like Abu Dhabi, Shanghai and, most recently, Sydney – cannot be underestimated. In short, NYU is now forsaking New York for the world. As distressing as it is for me, as someone who has devoted my professional career to teaching and mentoring NYU students, to admit, the brand has virtually eclipsed our academic mission. For who profits by this expansion? It’s not the students, faculty and alumni, constituting the lifeblood of any university. It’s not even the local small business (particularly those presently on LaGuardia Pl), as attested by the formation of Villagers for a Sustainable Neighborhood, an organization comprising over 50 businesses that include the likes of Washington Sq. Hotel and Blue Hill Restaurant, all of which have spoken out publicly against he aggressive scale of Pres. Sexton’s plan. Who else supports the plan other than NYU’s high-level administration and the local Chamber of Commerce? The construction workers’ union? If so, are we to believe NYU is committed to using union labor to build the buildings, but opposes collective bargaining for its own faculty and graduate students? Let’s also remember that construction workers will have jobs whether giant dorms are squeezed into the middle of two residential blocks or in the Financial District, where Margaret Chin has been courting NYU to build for 5 years now – with no real response from the administration.

    In its vitality and intellectual energy, NYU has contributed a great deal to the City. Now, I believe it’s NYU’s turn to acknowledge how much Greenwich Village and its vibrant cultural and economic life has contributed to its own character and sense of place. As things stand, however, the University administration – unless stopped – is about become complicit in destroying the very community that embraced and nourished it from its inception – the same extraordinary urban community that our students cross many states, even oceans, to join. The loss not only to the very fabric of the Village but to the character and standing of our own University would be irreversible. The community should be heartened to know that the faculty stands with them shoulder-to-shoulder in this struggle, and we will never stop fighting to remind the administration of our university's original academic mission. The costs are far too high to remain silent.

    • RRassendyll
      July 5, 2012

      "NYU is in danger of stretching itself to breaking point, fiscally and academically — and not only on the Square." This is the heart of the matter. Sexton, and Academic administrators, all have edifice complexes (…), and NYU has been dominated by its vice-presidents, provosts, deans, associate deans, assistant deans, program directors ad naus since John Sawhill was president (and I was teaching there…).

  4. BBMW
    July 5, 2012

    Maybe those tenured NYU professors who disapprove of this plan should resign in protest.

    • Truth_To_Power
      July 5, 2012

      Make no mistake, BBMW: A great many members of the faculty will leave NYU for its rival institutions if NYU 2031 becomes reality. Both distinguished older faculty and those starting not only their careers at NYU but also their families in the Village, many of them accepting their posts in large part thanks to the green space and playgrounds of the two Super Blocks that they now call home, will defect to other universities that both value and uphold faculty governance and care about the quality of life of their employees. NYU will be raided for its top talent faster than you can blink. That will be the sad state of affairs for faculty retention. As for faculty recruitment, to replace the dozens of exceptional faculty who will invariably depart? Best of luck to the current administration in convincing the most promising candidates — in many cases holding offers from our other competitors — to relocate their families to an ear-splitting, rat-infested twenty-year construction zone that, when actually completed, will more closely resemble Midtown than the Village that we all know and embrace … and that currently attracts faculty and students alike from across the world. And so, in the end, what quality of education will our students (and their families) be receiving for their $55,000+ of tuition per year and years of student debt? More and more classes taught by cheap labor (adjuncts, graduate students, other contract faculty) and cheaper labor still (online offerings).

      Ultimately, however, it is not our fellow faculty that should be expected to leave. Not after working tirelessly, in many cases for decades, in elevating NYU to the reputation that the University and its alumni currently enjoy. We are anything but resigned that this ill-conceived, financially ruinous expansion is a done deal. It is perhaps someone altogether different who should be doing the resigning. And you can probably guess whom I mean.

  5. Patrick Shields
    July 7, 2012

    Right now community leaders should be sitting down and having a hard conversation with the Building Trades and Construction Council. No matter what the outcome here, there is an enormous and long lasting benefit for labor. There is no rule that says labor has to always be on the side of the developer when the jobs argument arises, what's NYU going to do, walk away from their plan?? Only with labor on the community side of the bargaining table
    on this matter is NYU going to budge on the size of its proposed plan and this project get underway. Every available resource and every elected official should be working at this time to make this happen. The Greenwich Village community and labor community are a far more natural constituency economically than labor and NYU, it galls me every time I see labor walking the line with a developer knowing that they will be under siege at the bargaining table at the next contract. We need labor, and they need us. They're loyalty is, and should be, to jobs, and right now, the community and its elected officials can provide this more quickly than NYU. Every elected official in this community should be working to make this happen. Get labor to our side now, I'm sure they'll be forgiven by development the next time a high rise needs to get built by skilled union laborers.

    • John
      July 12, 2012

      Patrick – I think almost anybody supports more jobs for labor. The problem is that short-term construction jobs financed by more debt is not sustainable. Future NYU students will be taking out more debt so construction labor can have temporary jobs. This is very similar to the single family market disaster that we still have not recovered from 5-years later. Construction workers, loan officers at banks, employees in the CMBS industry, and realtors/etc. all were part of this boom and now many of these workers do not have jobs or make significantly less money than they made in 2007.

      Single family homes were built that households could not afford. Now, NYU is creating a product that students cannot afford. The long lasting implication of Sexton's 2031 Plan is far worse to labor (and everybody else) if a student debt crisis hits.

      NYU has created all these fancy drawings, plans, studies but they have failed to release the basic financial plan.

  6. Ralph Swain
    July 9, 2012

    New York City needs to take a lesson from San Francisco which, starting back in the '70s and '80s, had elected progressive officials (mayors, supervisors, planning commission members) who believed in preserving the beauty and character of the city's skyline and old Victorian neighborhoods rather than "Manhattanizing" itself. It is not surprising that NYU continues its bulldozing mentality of targeting the Sasaki Garden, the community gardens, the majestic trees along Laguardia Place, etc. when it has already wiped away the historic Edgar Allan Poe house and the historic Provincetown Playhouse rather than realizing the importance of preservation and restoration. Shame, shame.

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    January 25, 2014

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