New York U.'s Arts and Science Faculty Votes No Confidence in John Sexton

March 16, 2013

Faculty members in New York University's School of Arts & Science have voted to express no confidence in the leadership of John E. Sexton, the university's president, according to results of the vote released on Friday.

In the vote, which occurred over the past week, 52 percent said they agreed with a statement that the school's faculty has no confidence in Mr. Sexton, 39 percent said they disagreed with the statement, and 8 percent abstained. Of the 682 eligible voters (full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members whose primary or sole appointment is to the School of Arts & Science), 83 percent cast a ballot, according to a news release issued by the school's faculty senators.

The faculty leaders said in the release they anticipated that the vote's outcome would lead to discussions at the university in the coming days and weeks of "the ramifications of this vote, the circumstances that gave rise to it, and the next appropriate course of decisions and actions."

The vote of no confidence followed months of complaints about what Mr. Sexton's critics have described as his autocratic nature and top-down management style. The faculty critics have voiced concerns about some of Mr. Sexton's most-ambitious efforts, with some professors questioning the educational quality of NYU's programs overseas and many railing against the university's large-scale redevelopment plan, which would turn Greenwich Village, where many faculty members live, into a construction zone for nearly two decades.

A 'Vigorous Debate'

Mr. Sexton retains the support of the university's Board of Trustees, which passed a resolution last month saying that the board endorses the strategic direction of the university and Mr. Sexton's stewardship of it.

"The transformation of NYU from a strong regional university into a university that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's most revered universities," the resolution read, "is a remarkable accomplishment that is a testament to the dedication of the deans and the faculty under the outstanding leadership of John Sexton."

Martin Lipton, the board chairman, reiterated in a statement on Friday that the board "unanimously and strongly" supports Mr. Sexton. "In a time of great challenges to higher education, John Sexton has become a nationally recognized innovator while, at the same time, maintaining excellence," Mr. Lipton said. "It is clear to us that NYU is a great success story."

Mr. Sexton, too, expressed pride in the standing of the university in a statement he issued on Friday. He also acknowledged the recent months of "vigorous debate about NYU's direction" on the campus.

"In the university setting, we believe in debate and criticism; it helps us improve," Mr. 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."

He noted in the statement that he had received expressions of support from trustees and deans, and from the medical, nursing, and dental schools. And he said that faculty members "must be at the center of the academic endeavor and involved in the decision making."

"We have taken some important steps in that direction, and particularly with this vote in mind, that effort will continue," Mr. Sexton said. "I look forward to working with the faculty to maintain NYU's academic trajectory and prepare for the challenges ahead."