Category Archives: American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

Profile for 21st Century Presidency

Profile for a 21st Century Presidency at NYU

 
The American Association of University Professors is the originator and steward of the basic principles of governance and academic freedom observed by U.S. universities. Inspired by the Vote of No Confidence process set in motion by NYU’s Faculty of Arts and Science, we offer the following list of requisites for a 21st century presidency at NYU.

New York University, as one of the nation’s leading universities, needs a president who is deeply committed to 

The Ethos and Practice of Shared Governance

and who therefore supports

the right and obligation of faculty to define and shape all new academic and curricular initiatives, including those at global locations

the right and obligation of faculty to be represented on the Board of Trustees

the right and obligation of faculty to participate fully in the choosing of new presidents and provosts

the right and obligation of faculty to serve, as elected representatives, not as ad hoc appointees, on top level committees

the right and obligation of faculty to hold regular, plenary assemblies with the president and senior administrators in order to voice concerns and present new initiatives

the right and obligation of faculty to have full knowledge of the fiscal affairs of the university

the right and obligation of faculty to review and participate in the approval of all new building and expansion plans

the right of faculty, should a majority so decide, to union representation and collective bargaining

The Institutional Protections of Tenure and Academic Freedom for Faculty

and who therefore supports

the steady conversion of NTT into TT faculty positions at every NYU location

the extension of protections comparable to those that accrue to tenure to all fulltime faculty who have served continuously for seven years,

the upholding of academic freedom among all faculty, including those not on the tenure track 

the careful protection of academic freedoms through contracts and intellectual property regulations relating to commercialization of university research

The Principle of Making an NYU Education Affordable to All Students
and who therefore supports

the right and obligation of student representatives to participate

in a university-wide plan to reduce the student debt burden by expanding needs-based financial aid

the right and obligation of students to be represented on the Board of Trustees

the right and obligation of students to have full knowledge of the fiscal affairs of the university

a moratorium on the growth of non-academic personnel, offices, programs, and costs that are extraneous to core academic functions. 

The Cultivation of Mutually Respectful Town-Gown Relations
and who therefore supports
 

the right and obligation of community representatives to review and participate in the approval of all new building and expansion plans

the right and obligation of community representatives to serve on a committee for developing university-community initiatives that will benefit from NYU’s research and resources

The Abatement of Salary Polarization

and who therefore supports

the reduction, by at least 25%, of the salaries of the president and senior administrators

the establishment of a more equitable range spread between the highest and lowest paid of NYU employees 

a suspension of the practice of passing on the costs of benefits spending to employees 

The Upholding of Fair Labor Standards for All University Employees
and who therefore supports       

the right of all employees, including graduate student employees, should a majority so decide, to union representation and collective bargaining.

the right of employee union representatives to expect good faith in collective bargaining from the NYU administration

the right of all employees, including those contracted to construct and maintain GNU buildings, to be protected by the ILO’s basic international labor standards.

Andrew Ross, NYU-AAUP president

Molly Nolan, NYU-AAUP vice-president

Marie Monaco, NYU-AAUP secretary

Anna McCarthy, NYU-AAUP treasurer

Rebecca Karl, NYU-AAUP at-large executive member

Rana Jaleel, NYU-AAUP student member

Statement on Vote of No Confidence

AAUP Statement on Next Week’s FAS Vote of No Confidence

The upcoming FAS Vote of No Confidence (to be held March 11-15 by e-ballot) is a stark, but healthy, indicator of the revival of faculty interest in substantive shared governance here at NYU. It confirms the central role that faculty should play in ensuring that our educational institution lives up to its responsibilities. Even more important, the success of the vote will open the way to establishing a new, and more accountable, approach to achieving NYU’s educational goals.

In the months since the decision was made by faculty to take the vote, has there been a pertinent rejoinder from the administration?

Even though it took the administration more than 14 months to respond to the FSC’s resolutions on the topic, President Sexton has recently avowed that shared governance should be an important part of the NYU landscape. Yet the rhetoric has not been matched by actions. The undemocratic practice of creating ad hoc committees has continued, and has been compounded by the top-down appointment of selected faculty to these committees. The Space Priorities Working Group is widely regarded in this light, and a newly proposed ad hoc committee for GNU oversight has followed along the same lines. In the meantime, top administrators are still being appointed to head up academic units in New York and overseas.

Other than two memos circulated by President Sexton, both of which reflected heavily on his personal feelings, there has been no notable effort to respond overall to the many faculty grievances that led to the call for the VNC. Such general silence has only confirmed the growing disconnect between the executive mentality of the administration and the sentiments of the faculty at large.

The recent revelations about lavish compensation packages awarded to senior administrators from the early 2000s to the present day have left many faculty speechless. The purchases of multi-million-dollar apartments and homes, and the provision of multi-million-dollar forgivable loans are inappropriate in any non-profit institution, let alone an educational one. At a time when students and their families are struggling to pay tuition, and when compensation at all other employee ranks–instructional and non-instructional–have been depressed or squeezed hard, this kind of largesse at the top speaks volumes about how the university’s finances are being managed. To many of us, the emerging profile is more apposite to a Wall Street firm than a “private university in the public service.”

The widespread perception that NYU is being mismanaged, fueled by troubling reports about GNU programs and locations, seems to have accelerated the decline of faculty morale. But it has also whetted the faculty appetite for a different kind of presidency at NYU. In response, the AAUP chapter recently drafted a “bill of rights,” laying out suggestions for putting the institution on a more democratic and transparent course. NYU’s next president has the opportunity to set a nationwide model for a genuinely open institution, where decision-making is part of a university-wide process, and is no longer conducted solely through closed deliberations on the 12th floor of Bobst or in Trustee meetings.

We circulated that document (and it is included below) so that faculty have talking points around which to discuss this alternative future. The first step in that direction is to vote for the no confidence resolution next week. It is the only way of sending a clear message about

the need to restore the integrity of our workplace.

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

Rana Jaleel, student member, NYU-AAUP

Regarding Boycott Legislation

Statement on Proposed Legislation (A.8392) in NYS Assembly

The members of the AAUP chapter at NYU hold a variety of views about the efficacy of academic boycotts. In recognition of that range of opinion, we do not support President Sexton’s condemnation of the American Studies Association’s resolution to boycott Israeli universities. Faculty have a right to express their own opinions, in whatever form, about the suppression of freedoms among academics overseas, and a boycott of institutions is a legitimate exercise of that right. University presidents who unilaterally issue statements that do not reflect the diversity of opinion among their faculty are overstepping their office.

However, we do agree with the NYU administration’s response to the proposed legislation in the New York State Assembly. The bill (A.8392) is a clear and present threat to basic academic freedoms, not in the Middle East but here in New York State. Elected officials are seeking to use their fiscal powers to limit the range of academic expression simply because they disagree with its content. Passing this legislation would set a very dangerous precedent, reminiscent, for many of us, of the loyalty oaths of the McCarthy era.

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

UAE Arrests

To President John Sexton and Vice-Chancellor Al Bloom,

We are deeply disturbed by the recent news that United Arab Emirates authorities have arrested three leading human rights activists, one of whom is an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne. On April 8, 2011, Ahmed Mansour, a prominent blogger and vocal human rights advocate who recently called for political freedoms and an elected parliament in the UAE, was arrested in a pre-dawn raid at his home and has been charged with undisclosed crimes. Subsequently, another activist, Fahad Salem al-Shehhy, who has been participating in an online forum calling for free elections and other democratic reforms in the UAE was detained late Saturday in Ajman. Finally, one of the country’s most outspoken academics, Nasser bin Ghaith, who is a financial analyst and an economics professor at the Abu Dhabi branch of the Sorbonne was detained Sunday in Dubai.

These arrests raise deep concerns about the limits of free speech in the Emirates and respect for academic freedoms for those teaching at American and European universities there. We urge the NYU administration in New York and Abu Dhabi to speak out strongly on behalf of the human rights of these three Emirati citizens and to join Human Rights Watch and other international organizations in demanding to know the reasons for their detention and the charges against them.

In accord with the spirit of the AAUP, we hope that NYU administrators will see why it is important to defend the freedoms of faculty of whatever nationality who teach at American and European universities in the UAE. Silence on this serious issue will set a precedent that could also have ominous consequences for the speech protections of NYUAD faculty. As the foreign university with the largest and most visible presence in the UAE, the NYU administration should speak out firmly against these violations of basic rights.

Sincerely,

Andrew Ross, president, NYU-AAUP

Mary Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP

Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP

Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP

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

Rana Jaleel, graduate representative, NYU-AAUP

To Sexton and Bloom

To President Sexton and Vice-Chancellor Bloom

In the course of the last month, the NYU-AAUP chapter officers addressed two separate letters to you: the first regarding conditions of labor compliance at NYUAD, the second regarding the recent arrests in the UAE. We have not received any responses.

The substance of our letters was shaped by concerns about potential damage to NYU’s name by rights violations in the UAE. The chapter is beholden by the AAUP principles commonly observed by American universities to express such concerns, and it does so in order to safeguard NYU faculty interests. NYUAD is officially bound by the same AAUP principles regarding academic rights and freedoms. Our letters were intended as reminders that these principles cannot be selectively applied or cherrypicked–as an institution we either abide by them or we do not.

In the past, similar letters about NYUAD policy, which reflect widespread faculty concerns, have elicited a response from Josh Taylor (who is responsible for NYUAD communications), but only at our prompting. Most recently, we noted the following comment from Mr. Taylor in a Chronicle of Higher Education article on the subject of the recent detentions of UAE democracy advocates, including a Sorbonne professor

“Josh Taylor, a spokesman for NYU Abu Dhabi, said in an e-mail message that the administration will stay silent on the arrests. ‘We believe that we can have a far greater impact on creating a more informed, responsible, and just world, by creating powerful centers of ideas, discourse, and critical thinking, than by simply firing off a press release,’ Mr. Taylor wrote.”

We wonder if this is how the NYUAD administration wants NYU faculty to learn about policy decisions? Through comments in the press from its public affairs officer?

We believe that when a group of faculty addresses its legitimate concerns to the institution’s leaders, they deserve a response from the leaders, and not from a university spokesperson (with all due respect to Mr. Taylor) who handles public relations on behalf of the administration.

Sincerely Yours

Andrew Ross, president, AAUP-NYU

Mary Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP

Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP

Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP

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

Rana Jaleel, graduate representative, NYU-AAUP

Support for VNC

AAUP Statement on FAS Vote of No Confidence

A Vote of No Confidence (VNC) in a college president is a serious step for faculty to undertake. It is an active expression of the faculty’s role in shared governance, and, although it is not a last resort, this right is usually exercised as a response to a systematic pattern of troubling conduct on the part of an administration. We have reached that point at NYU, after a decade of unilateral decision-making on the part of the president and his senior staff. This conduct is not unique to the NYU administration. The traditions of shared governance are being shredded at universities around the country. Consequently, the number of VNCs is on the rise. In New York alone, there have been recent VNCs at the New School, Pace, and CUNY-Staten Island.

NYU has always had a “top-down” culture, but under the helm of President Sexton, the rate of institutional change has been dizzying, and it has been accompanied by a rapid concentration of power upwards. Most faculty, and their departmental officers, now feel that they are in the passive position of simply responding to instructions from above. Faculty-driven initiatives are no longer taken very seriously. By contrast, the 12th floor of Bobst has assumed sole responsibility for launching initiatives that have changed the face of the university. Faculty are then invited to cooperate with, or accommodate to, them. Efforts on the part of FSC senators at reviving the attenuated practices of faculty governance have met with stiff resistance from the administration. A recent concession to adopt a resolution on shared governance proposed by the FSC 17 months ago is an encouraging sign. However, it remains to be seen whether the administration, given its longstanding indifference, is serious about honoring the principles set forth in the resolution.

Our members and our colleagues are advocates of international education, but the shape and scope of the GNU, and the way in which it is being unilaterally developed, bears little resemblance to our principles as educators. The administration has repeatedly overridden the democratic right of our graduate students to form a union, and has spent millions of tuition dollars in an effort to break that union. Most recently, administrators behind the NYU2031 expansion have been unresponsive to faculty and Greenwich Village residents who either oppose the nature of the site plan, question the need for the expansion, or are concerned about the fiscal overreach it will entail. To date, 38 departments have taken the unprecedented step of voting to oppose the 2031 plan.

For these, and other reasons too numerous to detail in this brief statement, we, as officers of the NYU-AAUP chapter, support the democratic right of faculty to take this step, and we encourage all FAS faculty to vote in the affirmative on the 13th in order to allow the VNC to proceed. We condemn as anti-democratic any efforts to block this initiative on minor procedural grounds. The faculty voice should be heard.

Andrew Ross, president

Molly Nolan, vice-president

Marie Monaco, secretary

Anna McCarthy, treasurer

Rebecca Karl, at-large executive member

Rana Jaleel, student member

To the Board of Trustees

To Members of the NYU Board of Trustees,

We are writing in the spirit of the Board’s recent resolve to improve communications with faculty. As elected officers of the university’s AAUP chapter, we are advocates for principles that are commonly recognized by U.S. colleges and universities as the gold standard of academic process. (See http://www.aaup.org/report/1940-statement-principles-academic-freedom-and-tenure).

As NYU-Shanghai is opening its doors, we are obliged to record some grave concerns expressed by our members about the prospects for academic freedom in China and at the new campus. These concerns have been triggered by recent arrests of Chinese academics, the removal from the classroom of a law professor for advocating a functioning constitution in China, and by top-level announcements about constraints–known as the “Seven Silences”– now placed on academic speech in and outside of classrooms nationwide. The latter refers to broad topic areas that will be forbidden in classrooms in Chinese universities as well as in scholarly, internet, and mass media outlets, all but extinguishing the possibility of a learning environment governed by free inquiry. The press has reported that the American co-administrators of NYU-Shanghai have been given formal assurances that academic freedoms will be protected in classrooms and for our students (although the extent of those protections is not at all clear). However, it is difficult for us to imagine the campus can subsist as a bubble on an information landscape that is so severely constrained. Under such circumstances, self-censorship of instructors and students is certain, even if formal state surveillance can be kept at bay, at least within the confines of the campus.

Many of these concerns arise because, like NYU-Abu Dhabi, the Shanghai initiative was conceived and shaped with minimal faculty consultation and with few faculty concerns about freedoms permitted to enter the discussions. Even now, we have not been given any formal evidence of the kind of agreement signed between our NYU Administration and the Chinese authorities (national, municipal or district). Simple questions, such as whether Chinese students are exempted from the nationally-mandated ideological courses that all Chinese students must take to gain a Ministry of Education degree, have not been clarified. We have learned from press coverage that Chinese students will be forced to fulfill their first summer requirement to serve in military camps, and so we wonder if there are other provisions that treat Chinese and international students unequally. These are all questions and issues that should have and would have been raised had NYU-NY faculty with expertise in China and with longstanding experience of the Chinese education and research environment been part of the conversation about the Shanghai campus from the very beginning of its conceptualization.

As a result of these exclusions and black holes in our communication environment, both the

NYU-AD and the NYU-SH campuses are widely viewed by faculty purely as administrative initiatives of John Sexton, rather than organic offshoots of the scholarly community that is the core of New York University. This outcome is unfortunate under any circumstances, but all the more so when the university’s reputation, and all its employees, risk being tainted by association with rights violations in authoritarian countries like China and the UAE.

To some degree, the sullying of NYU’s name has already occurred, notably after the arrests of pro-democracy Emirati academics. Despite the urging of Human Rights Watch, and the AAUP, along with a hundred of our colleagues, there has been no public expression of concern from the NYU-Abu Dhabi administration. Not surprisingly, this refusal to comment on these flagrant assaults on academic freedom has been widely noted, and put down to fear of jeopardizing NYU’s favorable financial arrangements with the Abu Dhabi government. Accepting vast sums of money from foreign governments puts NYU and every scholar affiliated with the University in a morally compromising situation, and academic freedom is usually the first casualty.

We fear that a similar pattern will develop in China. The Chen Guancheng affair shows how easy it is for the university’s name to get entangled in a human rights imbroglio. Again, the public perception, accurate or otherwise, is that the NYU administration has made commitments in order to operate in China that cannot be imperiled. If that is the case, it is better to know about them now. As faculty, we are in the dark about such matters, though we trust that you are cognizant of them.

Academic freedom is not well-understood, and is often misconstrued by many academics themselves. At root, the protection of academic freedom is not confined to speech in the classroom alone. Like other professionals, faculty have an obligation to share their knowledge and expertise with the public, and it is this extra-curricular interface that is usually most in need of protection. Safeguarding that obligation is the true test of academic freedom and it is why universities cannot operate within a bubble, as they are obliged to do in countries that are hostile to free speech.

We bring these concerns to your attention as a matter of record, and with the open invitation to consult us further on these topics on which the AAUP has almost a century of active engagement.

In our experience, President Sexton has not been attentive to such concerns, and his public comments suggest that he favors a highly selective approach to the protection of academic freedom, invoking it only when it is convenient to do so.

There is a better way to pursue international education, based on initiatives that are guided by faculty interests, faculty expertise, and faculty concerns rather than by administrative fiat. We urge you to advocate for that better way.

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

To the Trustee Subcommittee

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. The AAUP is a source of essential knowledge about the state of the academy, and we are committed to sharing that knowledge with you as the process of review continues. Don’t hesitate to draw on our resources

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