NYU As Parliament: Professors To Hold A No-Confidence Vote Against Pres. John Sexton


Unlike federalism, Parliamentary systems have this strange dose of symbolic gestures that underlie the relationship between the legislature and the executive. An example of this is the no-confidence vote: if Parliament is fed up with the Prime Minister’s actions, its members can hold this vote that is basically a tallied ‘We don’t like you anymore. Please leave.’ However, the Prime Minister doesn’t have to, which is where it differentiates from the Presidential system. It’s like a half-assed impeachment, if you will.

The bureaucratic structure of New York University follows this Parliamentary system. Instead of a Prime Minister, it has President John Sexton and, instead of MPs, it has a voting body of professors divided by school. The two parties work in conjunction with each other to make decisions for the University’s procedures and plans. Or so the professors thought.
As we have reported in the past, John Sexton’s NYU 2031 plan – a massive expansion project that will drastically increase the size and influence of NYU in the West Village – has come under much scrutiny from not only the residents of the neighborhood but, also, the professors at the school. So, in true Parliamentary spirit, the voting body of the School of Arts and Science (the faculty Senators Council) met last night to debate whether or not a no-confidence vote on Mr. Sexton was needed and if the body even had the authority to do so. And, according to the New York Post, the decision has been made.
The possible vote will be a first in the school’s history. Things just got real.
Mr. Sexton has been the President of NYU for the past eleven years. Under his watch, the school has expanded on an unprecedented scale: ten study abroad sites have been added (most notably its site in Abu Dhabi), tons of new professors have joined the staff, the admissions rate has skyrocketed, the University’s real estate holdings continue to pile up and the Polytechnic Institute in Downtown Brooklyn became a sister school. For contrasting purposes, as our fellow scribe Nick Pinto once wrote, the cost of going to this place has never been higher – the tuition for 2012, without room, board or some sort of financial aid, clocks in somewhere around $20,500 a semester. 
And the most enduring part of Mr. Sexton’s dream to put the University on an Ivy League platform is the NYU 2031 plan.
In total, 38 academic departments have come out in opposition and organized this vitriol towards their boss in an open letter penned this past summer. Professors have voiced concerns over the project for many months now, arguing that Mr. Sexton has maneuvered his way around the professors’ voting bodies by not consulting with them until after decisions have already been made. Also, they cite the President’s insistence to send professors to study abroad projects (once again, most notably Abu Dhabi) that lack academic freedom.
With that being said, the no-confidence vote is a culmination of these general sentiments: that Mr. Sexton has distanced himself from his constituencies and has past the boiling point of civility. But, as mentioned before, Mr. Sexton doesn’t necessarily have to give a shit about the no-confidence vote – it is a gesture of discontent and nothing more. But, as old Obama adviser Lawrence Summers of Harvard University once proved, the vote can lead to resignation.
We’ll keep you updated on the progress of this Violet drama. Because it doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.