Value of listening sessions disputed

The Presidential Search Committee held two listening sessions on Sept. 30, giving faculty, staff and administrators a chance to voice their opinions on the search process and selection of the university’s next president after NYU President John Sexton steps down in 2016.

Approximately 50 people were in attendance during each listening session.

CAS professor Allen Mincer, who attended the faculty listening session, said he believes it was a good forum for the faculty to discuss pertinent issues.

“I think the committee members who were here were very open to hear what the faculty had to say, and there was clear voice from the faculty in what are the things that are important to them going forward, so I thought it was a good exchange,” Mincer said.

Tisch academic advisor Katrina Denney echoed these sentiments and said the staff and administration meeting was productive and even approached a consensus on what those in attendance were looking for in a president.

“It was really a good chance for people to voice their opinions,” Denney said. “There was a general consensus that they were looking for someone who could build a community.”

WSN was not allowed to attend either meeting. Kwame Anthony Appiah, a CAS professor and member of the committee, said press was barred from the meetings to encourage free and open discussion.

“It was a good session, very glad to hear from people,” Appiah said. “The idea is that these are forums where people speak frankly, and we want to be able to hear them.” 

Others at the faculty listening session, however, criticised the committee for being unresponsive to their concerns. CAS professor Andrew Ross said he was told to sit down after he brought up the principles of the American Association of University Professors, which outline the group’s standards for NYU’s next president.

“My comments at the session today were considered to be out of order by the chair-elect William Berkeley,” Ross said. “I have never seen a faculty voice silenced in this way before. All the more ironic since this was supposed to be a listening session for the trustees.”

NYU spokesman John Beckman said Ross was asked to sit down in order to allow others to speak.

“After extensive comments from one faculty member at today’s session, he was asked to conclude his remarks both to ensure that all attendees could be heard and to keep the meeting on track and focused on the presidential search,” Beckman said.

CAS professor Rebecca Karl said she did not attend the faculty listening session because she felt it was not actually listening to the faculty.

“These [listening sessions] are a farce and I have no intention of giving them any credibility,” Karl said. “If [the board of trustees] were interested not merely in listening but in hearing, the faculty on the committee would have been elected, not hand-picked, and the committee would not be majority trustees. Who, by the way, have not one academic among them.”

The final student listening session will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. in the Kimmel Center for University Life.

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email John Ambrosio at jambro[email protected] and Valentina Bojanini at [email protected].