Fourth No Confidence Vote for the President of N.Y.U.

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Two recent overwhelming votes of no confidence against the president of New York University have brought to four the number of N.Y.U. schools or campuses whose faculties have rejected his leadership.

The vote this week of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development was 117 to 45 against the president, John Sexton, and followed votes by the Gallatin School of Individualized Study; the College of Arts and Science, N.Y.U.'s largest; and Tisch School of the Arts Asia, a campus in Singapore that as of last November was not admitting any new students.

 All the votes are nonbinding resolutions that do not obligate the university's trustees to take any action. But they call attention to the strong opinions that Dr. Sexton's 11 years in office continue to generate.

During that time, N.Y.U. has raised billions of dollars, opened campuses around the world, won approval for a major expansion in New York City and hired celebrated professors. Applications to the school have increased.

And Dr. Sexton still has many fans -- not only among trustees, who have continued to support him, but also among some faculty members. To make a point, professors at the law school, where Dr. Sexton was the dean for 14 years, held their own vote on the president, which came out in his favor, 59 to 2.

But faculty members who oppose Dr. Sexton say that in the pursuit of growth, he has adopted a model of governance better suited to a corporate board room than to an academic setting, creating a star system with a few lavishly compensated faculty members making far more than everyone else, and prioritizing size at the expense of educational substance.

Dr. Sexton wrote a letter on May 2 to the N.Y.U. faculty acknowledging recent votes, as well as one cast in his favor by the Dean's Council. He wrote that measures were under way to improve communication and faculty involvement. With other votes forthcoming, including one next week at the Silver School of Social Work, he wrote, "Whatever the result, I look forward to continuing to work together."

Martin Lipton, chairman of the board of trustees, released a statement calling the Steinhardt school's vote "disappointing," and declared, as he has in the past, that "the board of trustees fully supports and has full confidence in John Sexton and his leadership."

Christine Harrington, a politics professor who is the head of the faculty senate council's governance committee, said the board's response was "very disheartening."

"I fear that they have taken a very aggressive approach to their own faculty by not responding in a pragmatic and constructive way," she said. "To deny the facts and say we'll just look forward to keep working with you is not appropriate."

education

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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