Search committee must listen to community

WSN Editorial Board

Chair of the Board of Trustees William Berkley and presidential search coordinator Ellen Schall spoke with representatives from WSN, NYU Local, WNYU and On Century Avenue on Nov. 17 to discuss what the search committee is looking for in the next university president. The search process is entering its second phase — the pool of candidates is now being narrowed from more than 200 nominees — marking the end of 27 listening sessions. While it is encouraging to see progress, it is becoming increasingly clear that the search committee needs to put a higher priority on the opinions of the student body.

Describing NYU’s future as a global institution, Berkley was conservative. “The university is what it is,” he said. “We are a global network university. That’s where we’re starting from. We’re going to not change that particularly at the moment … We’re happy with where we are.” His comments suggest that the next president will not make changes to NYU or its current expansion course — changes that much of the student body would like to see. NYU President John Sexton’s most recent years in office have been contentious, culminating in votes of no confidence in 2013. NYU’s lackluster financial aid has faced similar criticism, exacerbated by the letter published by a Gallatin undergraduate no longer able to afford tuition. Whoever NYU’s next president is cannot afford to ignore the legitimate grievances of faculty and students.

Another criticism of the search has been its lack of transparency. The listening sessions, offering no new information or procedural transparency, barred press form attending. It is understandable that the search committee must maintain a certain level of confidentiality for the candidates as they proceed, but what is most worrisome is the search’s lack of openness up to this point. Worse, no timeline will be given for the completion of the selection, further excluding the community from the process.

The presidential search committee is simply not interested in addressing the issues important to the community. They know that we want change, but they have all but stated that they will not give it to us. We should not be content with a president who will keep the university as it was. We want a president who can help us improve, who can come into office open to the concerns of students and faculty. We need a president who will listen to us. If the search committee does not consider our opinions as they go through the nominations, it is unlikely the new president will reflect the sentiments of our community, either.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Nov. 18 print edition. Email Editorial Board at [email protected]