UPDATE , March 16, 3:43 a.m.

The vote of no confidence and NYUAD

UPDATE , March 16, 3:43 a.m. FAS has passed a vote of no confidence in Sexton, Ross said. The motion, which stated "The Faculty of Arts and Science has ...

Mar 15, 2013

UPDATE , March 16, 3:43 a.m.
FAS has passed a vote of no confidence in Sexton, Ross said. The motion, which stated "The Faculty of Arts and Science has no confidence in John Sexton's leadership," was passed 298 to 224.
According to the press release from FAS, of the 569 faculty members who casted an e-ballot, 52 percent voted for having no confidence in John Sexton's leadership while 39 percent voted against the motion. Eight percent voted to abstain, and 113 eligible voters did not vote.
"In the coming days and weeks, we anticipate that the NYU community, along with the FAS senators, will be discussing the ramifications of this vote, the circumstances that gave rise to it and the next appropriate course of decisions and actions," the press release said.
Uleman added that FAS is working on its future plans.
In a statement, chair of the Board of Trustees Martin Lipton said while the Board is attentive to the vote by FAS, it still unanimously and strongly supports Sexton and his direction for NYU.
"The vote – although supported by fewer than half the tenured faculty in FAS – is a disappointing outcome, in part because it does not seem to take account of NYU’s progress over the last decade, in part because it does not take heed of the major challenges U.S. higher education faces now and in part because FAS has been the beneficiary of significant investment during John’s time," Lipton said in the statement.
He said the Board passed a resolution in February affirming its support for Sexton and the university's current course.
Lipton added the Board will start a conversation over the next two months by meeting with various stakeholders in the NYU community to discuss the future of the university's governance.
In a statement, Sexton said he also looks forward to working with the faculty to maintain NYU's academic trajectory and prepare for the challenges ahead.
"In the university setting, we believe in debate and criticism; it helps us improve," Sexton said in the statement. "That will be particularly important in the months and years ahead because we are at a moment that compels meaningful change in higher education."
No-confidence votes are not unprecedented in higher education institutions. In 2005, Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University passed a vote of no confidence in the then university President Lawrence Summers. The vote resulted in resignation of Summers almost a year later. Last year, Kean University's faculty senate passed a vote of no confidence against the university President Dawood Farahi. He remains president of the institution, however.
March 15, 10:10 p.m.
Faculty of Arts and Science has been conducting a five-day vote of no confidence in NYU President John Sexton this week. The vote, which began on Monday and will close at 6 p.m. EST on Friday, has been held electronically. Jim Uleman, chair of the FAS faculty senators, said 682 full-time tenured and tenure track faculty are eligible to cast a ballot. Uleman said none of the voters have primary appointments in NYUAD, however. Because many FAS faculty travel back and forth between New York and Abu Dhabi, the number of FAS faculty who are currently in Abu Dhabi is not available.
The no-confidence vote, happening for the first time in NYU's history, comes after a preliminary vote FAS held last year in which about 280 faculty participated. Approximately 56 percent voted in favor of holding a no-confidence vote in Sexton. Many pointed to the growing opposition to Sexton and raised concerns in transparency within the university, global expansion and NYU 2031 — the university’s plan to add 6 million square feet to its New York campus by 2031.
“NYUNY faculty are being given increasing responsibilities to monitor and exercise some sort of quality control over what goes on in [the Global Network University] — from hiring faculty, review courses [to] passing on promotion and tenure decisions,” Uleman said. “This is all pretty obscure and seems to change often.”
He said there are also concerns about academic freedom, viability of tenure and workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi: “It’s all in the newspapers or on the web. The administration denies that these are issues,” he said.
Andrew Ross, the president of the NYU chapter of American Association of University Professors, said the chapter has long petitioned the administration about such issues at NYUAD since the first announcement of plans for the university's portal campus.
While NYUAD has implemented a Statement of Labor Values regarding standards for construction and maintenance workers, Ross said the administration did not go far enough.
NYU spokesman John Beckman said the Board of Trustees — the group with the sole authority to select the university's president — has repeatedly expressed strong and unwavering support for Sexton. He attributed Sexton's achievements to this support.
Sexton, who was designated the university's 15th president in 2001, served as the dean of NYU School of Law for 14 years prior to his current position.
Beckman said during Sexton's presidency, the university has completed successful fundraising efforts and has seen the biggest expansion of tenured and tenure-track arts and science faculty. He added that the finances, budgeting and physical infrastructure of the university has dramatically improved over the past 10 years.
"This has all been accomplished while he has continued to teach undergraduates every semester," Beckman said.
He added that the GNU and NYU 2031 have been the subject of many conversations, such as University Senate discussions, hall town meetings and emails to the community.
"I recognize that there are members of the NYU community who disagree with one or both of these initiatives, but I do not think one can fairly claim they weren’t fully aired," he said.
Many NYUAD community members have also shown their support for Sexton and his initiatives with the GNU.
Bryan Waterman, a professor of English currently in Abu Dhabi but eligible to vote, said he is disappointed when reading quotes from colleagues on the Square who comment on the GNU without having practical experience with it.
“What we do here remains abstract or hypothetical for some,” Waterman said. “For those who have been involved, I think our attitudes are overwhelmingly positive and we remain committed.”
Waterman described his time at NYUAD as one of the most rewarding experiences he has had in 12 years at NYU and is saddened that the GNU is often used as ammunition against Sexton during this vote.
“The critics in New York have a range of issues that mobilize them, from unionization for graduate students to questions about faculty governance and the university's plans for developing new infrastructure in the NYU campus,” Waterman said. “I'm saddened that some have felt the need to lump the GNU in with other complaints, some of which I have a degree of sympathy for. But the loudest critics of the GNU are the ones who have to seem the least understanding of its realities.”
As Sexton continues to be put in the spotlight by NYU faculty and the media, students and faculty at NYUAD have shown pride in their institution and identify Sexton as the leader that has made educational opportunities, scholarship and top-tier research possible and accessible.
“Like many members of our community, as I look at what we have all accomplished here over the past few years, I'm struck by one simple fact – without [Sexton’s] vision, there would be no NYU Abu Dhabi,” said NYUAD spokesman Josh Taylor.
Cyrus R. K. Patell, associate professor of English at NYUNY and associate dean of humanities at NYUAD, is another faculty member eligible to vote.
He has publically demonstrated his support for Sexton on his blog, “patell dot org”. Patell has published pieces criticizing the “sloppy, error-filled” coverage of the vote of no confidence in American media, acknowledged Sexton’s efforts as a strong leader and defended the concept of the GNU as “a brilliant idea.” Patell was disenfranchised from the preliminary vote to hold the vote of no confidence because he was unable to be present in the room when the vote was cast at the end of last semester.
While Patell received an electronic ballot on March 11 to cast his vote during this five-day vote of no confidence in Sexton, he wrote about how his wife, a member of the Liberal Studies Program in FAS, was disenfranchised because LSP consists of non-tenure-track faculty.
In one of his posts, Patell wrote that Sexton is "committed to listening, and to becoming a better listener, and to creating the kinds of meaningful institutional conversations that we desperately need in order to make the GNU a success."
Valentina Vela, a sophomore at NYUAD, has also created a blog to allow students to show their support for Sexton. “We Heart John Sexton” launched almost two weeks ago, and students from both campuses as well as alumni have since been posting their stories, memories and photos with Sexton.
“We want to tell him here that we support him in a non-political way,” Vela said. “The idea is that he can wake up whenever he’s feeling down and see that there are people thinking about him. It must be a tough week.”
Anyone can write a post, which then arrives in Vela’s private account for her to publish. Posts on “We Heart John Sexton” range from photos of students with their president, inspirational quotes, stories from NYU graduates of how Sexton help propel their careers forward and testaments to his character as a warm-hearted and intelligent leader.
“[Sexton] truly cares for students, which is more than what can be said of some faculty,” said Stephen Underwood, a junior at NYUAD. “He has never had anything but the best of intentions for NYU, and his stewardship of the university has been superb.”
But for students like Bailey Theado, an NYUNY sophomore studying abroad at NYUAD this semester, the current situation back on the Square has forced her to think critically about her position in the GNU. As a visiting student at an institution that is a work-in-progress at a time when its president is being challenged, Theado’s perspective on the GNU has been confused.
“I keep wondering what unites us and our experiences as NYU students and ultimately if we are considered academic equals with NYUAD being branded as the ‘World’s Honors College,’” Theado said. “Because the flip side of that is that all other NYU students are not. Where does that leave my education in comparison when Abu Dhabi students receive the same diploma as I do?”
Regardless of the results that will be released tonight, life for the students and faculty at NYUAD will likely stay the same.
“I'm convinced we'll go on, business as usual,” Waterman said.
Amanda Randone is co-editor-in-chief. Jaewon Kang is a foreign correspondent. Email them at
Photo credit: Andrew Platonov
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