Faculty demand that Sexton resign after adverse vote

 Members of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan celebrated at La Lanterna di Vittorio on MacDougal St. Friday evening after the no-confidence vote results were  announced.  Photo by Tequila Minsky


Members of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan celebrated at La Lanterna di Vittorio on MacDougal St. Friday evening after the no-confidence vote results were announced. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON |Concluding a highly anticipated five-day electronic vote, faculty at New York University’s largest school voted no confidence in President John Sexton last week — and summarily urged him to resign.

The final tally was revealed early Friday evening, with the results that the faculty of Arts and Science voted 52 percent for and 39 percent against a verdict of no confidence. Of 682 eligible faculty, 83 percent weighed in on the question, which was mainly spurred by N.Y.U.’s 2031 development plan on its two South Village superblocks, where about 40 percent’s of the school’s faculty live.

N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan — which is a plaintiff in what’s called an Article 78 lawsuit against the city’s approval of the university’s “N.Y.U. 2031” scheme — issued the following statement:

“N.Y.U.’s faculty of Arts and Science has now voted, by 298 to 224 with 47 abstentions, for a motion of no confidence in the leadership of President John Sexton. We call on him to honor that consensus by resigning, and ask that the trustees accept his resignation.

“As the trustees comprise the third tier of shared governance, we hope they will act quickly to restore faculty morale, by working with us to turn N.Y.U. into a more open university,” FASP members said, “one that is transparent in its financial dealings, and more democratic in its management of academic affairs.”

Sexton, giving no sign he would step down, released a statement of his own, praising the university’s ongoing “academic trajectory”

“I have spent the majority of my professional life at N.Y.U.,” he said. “In those three decades, I have been animated by a single purpose — to serve my institution well, and to try to improve it. Through a collective effort involving trustees, alumni, university leadership and faculty, we have during the past 30 years transformed N.Y.U. from a decent regional university into an international research university that stands among the top institutions in the world.

“Now we are in a time of tremendous pressure on higher education,” Sexton continued, “and my goal is to sustain that academic momentum while adapting N.Y.U. to a dramatically changing environment. Over the past several months, there has been vigorous debate about N.Y.U.’s direction, resulting in both expressions of support — from the Medical School, from the Nursing School, from the Dental School, from the deans of all the schools, as well today’s e-mail to the N.Y.U. community from the trustees — and now this expression of dissatisfaction from FAS [faculty of Arts and Science].

“In the university setting, we believe in debate and criticism; it helps us improve,” Sexton said. “That will be particularly important in the months and years ahead, because we are at a moment that compels meaningful change in higher education.

“It is also the case that faculty must be at the center of the academic endeavor and involved in the decision-making,” he added. “We have taken some important steps in that direction and, particularly with this vote in mind, that effort will continue. I look forward to working with the faculty to maintain N.Y.U.’s academic trajectory and prepare for the challenges ahead.”

In a statement, Martin Lipton, chairperson of the university’s board of trustees, said they stand firmly behind Sexton:

“The board of trustees unanimously and strongly supports President John Sexton, and believes in his strategic direction for the university,” Lipton said.

“We have seen a strong, thriving, advancing university during his tenure as president,” Lipton said. “We note a 12 percent increase in applications for freshman admission in this year, the sixth straight year of record applications. We see the improvement in the academic qualifications of entering freshmen during John’s presidency, the increase in retention and graduation rates, and the expansion of financial aid. … We see a very successful record of fundraising — essentially $1 million per day, day in and day out since John Sexton became president. We note improvements in the finances, in the budgeting, and in the physical facilities of the University over the last 10 years, as well as the successful handling of the de-merging of Mt. Sinai’s and N.Y.U.’s medical centers, and the dramatic turnaround at the N.Y.U. Langone Medical Center. We see the increase in tenured and tenure-track faculty, particularly in the arts and sciences, and a marked improvement of our ability to attract top scholars.

“We believe that the global network created during his presidency has offered new academic opportunities to faculty and students (twice as many of whom study abroad as did 10 years ago), distinguished N.Y.U. among U.S. universities, and attracted the commitment and support of sophisticated partners.”

In related news, a community lawsuit filed by longtime Washington Square Village non-N.Y.U. tenants and others against the university’s development plans was dismissed this week by Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Coin. Coin ruled that the suit’s contention that the residents were being “deprived of essential services” should go before the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal, rather than be heard in court.

The suit argued that N.Y.U.’s plan to add two large new infill buildings in the complex’s courtyard would deprive the residents of use of the backyard Sasaki Garden, which they have had consistent use of ever since moving in decades ago.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Lawrence B. Goldberg, a resident of the complex, said he was “extremely disappointed” at Coin’s ruling, charging that she “took five months to do nothing.” He told The Villager he filed the necessary papers to appeal the ruling and that the decision to appeal must be made within several months, but that the plaintiffs will know well before then how they’ll proceed.

Lynne Brown, N.Y.U. senior vice president for university relations and public affairs, said of Coin’s verdict, “We are very pleased with today’s ruling and also look forward to prevailing in the Article 78 case that has been filed with regards to N.Y.U.’s expansion plans.”

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10 Responses to Faculty demand that Sexton resign after adverse vote

  1. What the trustees should do, in light of the vote of no confidence by the faculty, is to revoke tenure throughout the unviversity, and fire the professors leading the no confidence effort. Then the faculty will know who really runs NYU.

  2. BBMW, I’m afraid you have it backwards. Pres. Sexton and his overpaid brood of suits and salesmen will be the ones to go, not the faculty who, although it obviously hasn’t yet occurred to you, do all the teaching, mentoring, thesis supervision, recommendation letter writing, awarding of student prizes, conference organizing, and committee service. And, by the way, pioneering research … in their “free time.” Your “take it or leave it” tough guy act is completely in line with that of the Sexton administration; believe me, you’d be a perfect fit. Hell, you might even score a $1.4 million largely-forgivable home loan for the few ineffectual years that you stay and $685,000 severance “gift” when you leave. You clearly wouldn’t have any bouts of conscience doing any of the dirty work. Just good luck replacing all the leading experts in their respective fields whom you’d so gleefully fire — those internationally-renowned specialists carrying out and publishing cutting-edge research who’ll get snatched up by the likes of Columbia and Princeton and who have forgotten more this past week than you’ve learned in you lifetime. Then again, judging by your consistently uninformed comments on this site and elsewhere in the subject of higher education, who knows, you might be perfectly fine with Pres. Sexton (wearing the Yankees hat of Prof. Sexton) teaching “God and Baseball” to our students twice a year, every year, in return for their $60,000/yr. in tuition, room and board. Or maybe the Bice-President of University Affairs teaching … what, exactly? “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” with pictures? The education system clearly failed you, BBMW, judging by the angry bitterness of your attitude toward university faculty. I cannot pretend to understand what may have happened to shape the cynical worldview that you now espouse. But we refuse to fail our own students — bone-tired from working and interning 2-3 jobs a year and crushed by loan debt — here at NYU. You seem to think it’s the faculty that’s bent on keeping Sexton from realizing his grand monarchal ambitions. I’m here to tell you that the faculty is the only thing keeping this entire university (as a university, not a lending bank) from utter dysfunction. We’re taking back NYU the educational institution and preserving its academic integrity from NYU the real estate tycoon and global retail brand, whether you like it or not. Say your worst. We’ll continue to do our best.

    • What a laugh. You (meaning the NYU faculty) have no influence over the board and the policies of the NYU. They'll do what they want, and the only think you can do about it is quit (or strike, which would have the same effect.) There is a legion of PhDs out there who'd be happy to take your jobs.

      They control the money. They control the property. You had your little vote. It had no effect. So what are you going to do now?

  3. I think the faculty already knows who really runs nyu, and he should be fired. As an alum' I'm very disappointed in Sexton's plan. The very school that taught me to love the Provincetown Playhouse turned around and raped it. The school that taught me to love Edgar Allen Poe destroyed the house he once lived in. And now, the school that had me fall in love with historic Greenwich Village is trying to ruin it forever. Shame on my alma mater. Never another donation from me. So sad.

  4. The reason tenure is so valuable is so that what BBMW proposes cannot happen. Those who wish to express their views freely and wish to promote them democratically should not fear for their jobs; that is the point of tenure and that, frankly, should be the point of any society that professes "freedom" as one of its core beliefs.

  5. As an alumna of the NYU Nursing School and resident of Soho for the last 40 plus years, I strongly oppose Sexton(I refuse to call him "President") and his plan to demolish the neighborhood because of greed. He totally disregards the community that he has already invaded and continues to want to totally take over.

    NYU has consistently ignored agreements they made with community such as saying that a substantial playground that existed on Mercer and Houston would be replaced. Have you noticed the tiny little playground near The Sports Center? It was inadequate to begin with and has been allowed to go to rack and ruin and is even locked so noone can use it.

    Also, how did NYU have the gaul to claim Washington Square Park as its own and reconfigure it to meet its needs?
    It was fine before. I am sure that money could have been spent on a better cause.

    This whole thing is so disgraceful and obviously the city and the justice division are in cahoots with NYU. They are all probably in on the financial advantages. It wouldn't surprise me.

    Can you tell that I am angry?

  6. joanna underwood

    It is clear that the NYU trustees have little regard for the faculty concerns, having responded to these with barely a word of understanding or empathy. They appear preoccupied with forever bigger and richer. Surely, Sexton has succeeded on these counts, but now he seems mainly addicted to growth. As head of a civic community association in the East Village, we have watched NYU build big but unattractive dormitories across our neighborhood – sending a message to its students and city that building structures of enduring distinction and quality comes a far second to getting the most square footage for the buck. Perhaps the Trustees haven't noticed this, but very many in our neighborhood have. NYU just may be big enough now, and the focus should be on quality not quantity — on nurturing a caring environment for learning that respects the views of the faculty members who make up the heart of the institution.

  7. Hurray for NYUFASP for prompting the vote of "no confidence" and their Article 78 lawsuit. They are teaching Sexton and the Board of Trustees a lesson. It is a longstanding tradition that Faculty runs the University and should be consulted on all aspects of education,development and land use.

    No doubt the anonymous BBMW is one of NYU's paid consultants He rates a grade of " D" for duplicitous.

  8. Another public embarrassment for Sexton. I wonder if it will have any effect. The underlying problem for NYU is its limited endowment which has pushed it to rely on tuition expansion. So even if Sexton goes, their strategy will likely remain. If the state were to fund CUNY adequately, hire more full time faculty and eliminate its tuition, you'd see a lot less student interest in NYU. But as long as the state and the federal government fund student loans instead of funding free state universities directly, the state will continue to promote the expansion of expensive private schools like NYU.

  9. I don't regard the vote of less than 300 faculty at the College of Arts and Sciences as a 'majority'. After all, NYU has 4,000 faculty. Talk about this plan has been going on for five years so the arts and sciences faculty can't exactly say that there has been no discussion. There has–I live in the area. The plans calls for just one building to be erected before 2022. One building is hardly going to change the historic character of the Village. The buildings those faculty live in swept away that historic character a long time ago and one complex, Washington Square Village, wasn't even built by NYU. The faculty have also complained about the branch campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi and their possible danger to freedom of expression. And so when these same faculty visit countries around the world where free expression is nil, do they ask the same questions or do they pick up the checks NYU sends them for their cost of travel and lodging gladly? Hypocrites the whole lot.

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