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NYU's Arts and Sciences Faculty Vote No Confidence in President John Sexton

Though not binding, the vote is a setback for John Sexton and his agenda of NYU expansion.
Though not binding, the vote is a setback for John Sexton and his agenda of NYU expansion.

The week-long electronic balloting just closed, and the results are in: Faculty in New York University's School of Arts and Sciences have voted in support of a resolution of no confidence in the university's president, John Sexton, and his administration.

The voting was open to the school's 682 tenured or tenure-track faculty, of whom 569 took part. Of the votes cast, 298 professors (52 percent of those participating) voted no confidence, and 224 (39 percent) voted to support Sexton.

The resolution has passed, though it is not immediately clear what implications it will have. In announcing the result of the vote, New York Faculty Against the Sexton Plan called on Sexton to resign and on the trustees to accept his resignation.

"As the Trustees comprise the third tier of shared governance, we hope they will act quickly to restore faculty morale, by working with us to turn NYU into a more open university-one that is transparent in its financial dealings, and more democratic in its management of academic affairs."

Other divisions at NYU are considering holding their own no-confidence votes may now move forward with them. Prior to the vote, the school's board of trustees had publicly reaffirmed their support of Sexton, so the vote alone is unlikely to drive him out of office.

Andrew Ross, a vocal critic of Sexton and his policies, said he expects the struggle over the direction of the school will shift from faculty-against-president to faculty-against-trustees. "They represent the concentrated power of Wall Street," he said. "For us, I think that fight will be an opportunity to shine a light on the Trustees, which rarely happens."

Update: NYU's central administration has released this statement from John Sexton:

"I have spent the majority of my professional life at NYU. In those three decades, I have been animated by a single purpose - to serve my institution well, and to try to improve it. Through a collective effort involving trustees, alumni, University leadership, and faculty, we have during the past 30 years transformed NYU from a decent regional university into an international research university that stands among the top institutions in the world. This stands as a great collective accomplishment.

"Now we are in a time of tremendous pressure on higher education, and my goal is to sustain that academic momentum while adapting NYU to a dramatically changing environment. Over the past several months, there has been vigorous debate about NYU's direction, resulting in both expressions of support - from the Medical School, from the Nursing School, from the Dental School, from the Deans of all the schools, as well today's email to the NYU community from the Trustees - and now this expression of dissatisfaction from FAS.

"In the university setting, we believe in debate and criticism; it helps us improve. That will be particularly important in the months and years ahead, because we are at a moment that compels meaningful change in higher education.

"It is also the case that faculty 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. I look forward to working with the faculty to maintain NYU's academic trajectory and prepare for the challenges ahead."

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[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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