NYU President John Sexton held a town hall meeting yesterday, inviting students to express any concerns about their university. He faced imminent questions about financial aid, the global expansion plans and the vote of no confidence. In most instances, Sexton provided shallow answers with few details, steering instead toward noncontroversial initiatives.
In response to a question about NYU’s continued expansion abroad, and the seemingly stagnant percentage of students receiving financial aid, Sexton skirted the issue. He cited the outpacing of tuition increases vis-a-vis financial aid growth. However, if you compare a percentage increase in financial aid versus the same percentage increase in tuition, the truth comes out. Small percentage increases in tuition greatly raises revenue. Meanwhile small increase in financial aid only seem like a lot when expressed as a percentage. Thus, when you say that the percentage growth of financial aid has outpaced that of tuition, it doesn’t really have the significance that Sexton is alleging. No number of staged town hall meetings will change the simple fact that if NYU has money to spare right now, then they should use this money to help current students—instead, the administration is expanding the student population all over the globe and handing out lavish, unethical bonuses to administrators, including Sexton. In short, there is a real concern about this president’s priorities.
When asked about schoolwide concerns over his leadership, Sexton acknowledged the recent vote of no confidence but asserted that the Faculty of Arts and Science only represents part of the university. Despite his misplaced confidence, the Tisch School of the Arts and the Gallatin School of Individualized Study have taken steps toward assessing their trust in Sexton.
He opposed the notion that NYU students could hold their own vote of no confidence, claiming that they do not know him well enough. At best, this shows Sexton’s inability to connect with the student body and at worst, reveals a plot to shut out students from a critical period in NYU’s history. The vote of no confidence debacle has certainly taken a toll on Sexton’s reputation and may spill over into the student body’s opinion.
This town hall meeting did not bring us closer to Sexton or to finding solutions to NYU’s financial aid issue. Although Sexton took a few questions from students, he must make a greater effort to regain our trust. The WSN editorial board expects more, Mr. Sexton.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 3 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]