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NYU President Sexton To Face No-Confidence Vote

NYU President Sexton Faces Faculty No-Confidence Vote in March
John Sexton has opened NYU campuses and study centers in the Middle East, Europe , Asia and South America and has city approval for new construction in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Professors in New York University’s largest school moved to hold a no-confidence vote on President John Sexton in March, saying he failed to consult with them on the school’s expansion.

The Faculty of Arts & Science decided yesterday by simple majority to vote on the no-confidence resolution during the week of March 11-15, according to an e-mail from James Uleman, chairman of faculty’s Senate Caucus. Any result of the vote will be non-binding, school officials said. The university’s board of trustees expressed support for Sexton today in a statement from Chairman Martin Lipton.

Sexton has opened NYU campuses and study centers in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and South America. His plan for new construction in New York’s Greenwich Village neighborhood, called NYU 2031, is opposed by 39 of the university’s departments and divisions, according to NYU Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, a teachers’ group.

“NYU’s faculty has lost its faith in this administration to lead NYU in a way that is educationally productive, inclusive and financially sound,” the group’s statement said. “The no confidence vote is a response to a pattern of top-down decision making by President Sexton and his administration.”

Sexton has also opposed unionization among NYU’s graduate students, which many faculty support, and failed to speak out about the detainment of professors in countries such as Abu Dhabi and China, where the president has established branches, said Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis.

Style, Substance

While Sexton hasn’t consulted with faculty, he has been effective in raising the school’s profile and expanding research opportunities, said Tony Movshon, a professor of neural science who’s been at NYU for 37 years. He said Sexton’s critics are pointing out problems without offering alternatives.

“My sense is that the substance of what he’s trying to do is improve the institution in ways that will make me a better and more productive scholar and benefit my students and colleagues,” Movshon said. “You have to separate style from substance.”

Sexton’s proposals for the school’s future are sound, Lipton said.

“While we recognize this vote reflects a disagreement with the direction of the university, John and the strategic direction he has set for the university enjoy our full confidence and strong support,” Lipton said in the statement.

Faculty backing can have a significant impact on the ability of a university president to lead. Lawrence Summers stepped down as president of Harvard University in 2006 after losing a faculty no-confidence vote. Support from students and professors helped University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan regain her job in August, just weeks after she had been forced to resign by the Board of Visitors.

Professors voted 144 in favor of the no-confidence test, and 114 against, Uleman’s e-mail said.

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