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FAS to hold vote of no confidence against Sexton in March

Posted on December 13, 2012 | by Julie DeVito and Jonathon Dornbush

Live Blog

Update: Friday, Dec. 14th 3:20 pm

Joseph LeDoux said that the vote was close, but that given that those in favor of the vote have been mobilizing, they likely had a stronger showing at the vote.

“I’m hoping that when the VNC comes, there will a mechanism that allows for all of the 700 or so members of FAS to vote,” he said. “It’s hard to know whether those that didn’t vote don’t care or were unable to vote in the narrow time window that was allowed since this came up on short notice and no mechanism for absentee voting. There will now be lots of time for people to think about what they want.  It’s unfortunate that NYU has to be tied up with this for the next several months, but that’s a better outcome than what I understand the initial objective to have been–  pushing the VNC process through as fast as possible.”

Update: Friday, Dec. 14th 2:40 pm

In an email Friday afternoon, Jim Uleman, Chair of the FAS faculty senators, announced that the FAS voted 56% in favor of holding a vote of no confidence. The faculty in attendance voted by secret ballot with 144 in favor and 114 against the future vote. The second ballot offered times for the vote to occur. The faculty voted 54% in favor of holding the vote in March. The vote will be held March 11-15, 2013.

Uleman said that the FAS parliamentarian, Lori Finck, did the vote count with assistance from seven senators who stayed late to help: Susan Anton, Sylvain Cappell, Christine Harrington, Molly Nolan, Carol Reiss, Jim Uleman, and Dan Zwanziger.

Altogether, he said faculty cast 279 ballots on the first vote: 258 plus 1 blank, 11 abstentions, and 9 provisional ballots. Faculty cast 269 ballots on the second vote: the 252 noted above, 8 blanks, and 9 provisional ballots. The provisional ballots were cast by faculty who were not currently on the FAS faculty list when they checked into the meeting. Their ballots will be included once membership in FAS is verified by the deans office, but Uleman said that there are too few to affect the outcome.

Original article:

The Faculty of Arts and Science voted Thursday afternoon on whether they would take a vote of no confidence against NYU President John Sexton. The vote reflected the growing opposition to Sexton’s administration and his ability as president.

Though a result has been reached, the decision will be announced Friday morning via an email to the faculty from the office of the dean, said a faculty who wanted to remain anonymous.

Tenured and tenure-track FAS faculty voted on whether they would allow the FAS senate to cast an anonymous, electronic vote on the following statement: “The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has no confidence in John Sexton’s leadership.” Faculty were able to agree or disagree in their vote or abstain.

Gloria Caruzzi, professor of Biology, said the meeting itself was quiet, with only a few people rising to speak their views. The voters were given two ballots: one to vote on whether to have the vote of confidence and another on when the vote would occur. In the second vote, they were also asked to rank three potential voting days in the next few months: December, January and near spring break.

Christine Harrington, a politics professor and chairwoman of the Faculty Senators Council’s governance committee, participated in the vote on Thursday. She pointed to the lack of faculty participation when the university makes academic and policy changes.

“Academic decisions and policy decisions, which faculty used to be involved in developing, deciding and implementing, have shifted dramatically and at a very fast pace out of our hands,” Harrington said. “We learn about decisions after they’ve been made. That has produced an enormous amount of cynicism, apathy and outrage.”

Even though votes of no confidence have in the past led to downfalls of university presidents, they are usually non-binding, The New York Times reported. In 2006, the Faculty of Arts and Science at Harvard University partook in a vote of no confidence against President Lawrence H. Summers. Shortly after, he made the decision to resign. NYU has not had a similar vote in its past, and some faculty have voiced concern over the procedure.

Yaw Nyarko, professor of economics attended the vote in Kimmel.

“There were many pro-Sexton and anti-‘vote of no confidence voices,’” Nyarko said in an email. “The main arguments [against the vote of no confidence] were one, the university had done very well in many areas and departments over the past decade, exceptionally well and two, a vote of no confidence is a very blunt tool, with unpredictable and perhaps unproductive, consequences.”

But many faculty members agree with Harrington and said Sexton has not been properly addressing faculty concerns, specifically the NYU 2031 expansion plan.

In a letter to the editor on Sept. 4, 2012, Rebecca Karl, a faculty member and senator, wrote about the growing unrest among faculty members. She said 37 departments, divisions and schools have voted nearly unanimously in opposition to NYU 2031 and feel that they are not being heard.

“In a word, most of the opposition arises out of huge concern for NYU, the institution and out of even more concern for undergraduate students, whose sacrifices to come to NYU are enormous,” Karl wrote. “In other words, we should not be dismissed with a sneer, but rather taken very seriously, as people within the system, who care deeply about our school and our students.”

Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neural science, voted against the vote of no confidence. He said the vote is too important to have taken place at such a busy time. LeDoux added that the vote would not reflect the entire faculty.

“I voted against the motion today, and if it passes we vote against the vote of no confidence. Over the past decade I feel NYU has gone from a good to a world class university,” LeDoux said. “This did not just happen. It required support from administration. I don’t necessarily agree with everything John Sexton or his administration does, but on the whole I am pleased with what they’ve done for NYU and I’m proud to be a faculty member here.”

Courant professor Sylvain Cappell said if the FAS elects to have a vote of no confidence, it would be important to hold this vote later in the academic year. She said this would give faculty more time to consider the vote.

“As a significant number of FAS faculty have been critical of aspects of some major NYU initiatives, it’s possible that a majority of those attending today’s meeting will vote to hold a vote, but I think it important that any resulting vote not take place until Spring Semester to give faculty time for collegial reflection and discussion,” Cappell said.

NYU spokesman John Beckman said the university’s ability to recruit talented faculty and top students shows the growing reputation of the university. He said NYU’s leadership remains focused on sustaining that momentum, but that open dialogue with faculty should exist.

“Certainly there are those who do not agree with every move the University made, and a high pace of change can be disruptive,” Beckman said. “It is no surprise that in a university that is making innovative moves, voices of disagreement will arise; we know that we have to be sensitive to how these changes affect faculty and other constituencies and that faculty dialogue and engagement are necessary for the healthy functioning of the university.”

Martin Lipton, chair of the NYU Board of Trustees, said faculty are at the heart of any university, and their sentiments and concerns are taken into consideration by the trustees.

He said, however, that the Trustees also have the duty to protect the long term goals and overall direction of the university. He added that he has seen great accomplishment under Sexton.

Don Garrett, chair of the department of Philosophy, said the meeting was well-attended and civil.

“Certainly, valid issues were raised at the meeting,” he said. “However, over the last decade, the Sexton administration has greatly increased the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty in Arts & Science through the Partners’ Plan. Very few universities have done as well in the past decade as NYU under the Sexton Administration.”

Julie DeVito and Jonathon Dornbush are senior editors. Email them at university@nyunews.com. 

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