Inaugural Week Marks New Era


Anna Letson

NYU has set up a whole week of events preceding President Hamilton’s inauguration.

Andrew Hamilton will be officially inaugurated as the 16th President of NYU on Sunday, Sept. 25. That news may strike many as odd, given that the former Oxford vice chancellor began assuming the responsibilities of the office nearly nine months ago. The harried transition from John Sexton to Hamilton lifted a weight off the university and was greeted with fanfare but passed without much ceremony.

According to Ellen Schall, Senior Presidential Fellow, the delayed inauguration was intentional.

“[Hamilton] made the choice not to do it the minute he came,” Schall said. “We did a series of welcome receptions for him in January, but many presidents choose to wait a few months or so.”

Waiting also gave the administration time to plan not just the inauguration ceremony, but an entire week full of community events and activities.

The inauguration week calendar is crammed with talks and events, as many as 10 a day, ranging from the whimsical — a Monday night A Cappella Showcase in Kimmel Center — to the profound, with talks with bold titles like “Faith,” “Imagination,” “The City” and “The Earth.” Community Squares, spaces constructed to foster community engagement with generous helpings of coffee and snacks, will pop up across campus throughout Wednesday and Thursday.

Though meticulously organized, many of the events did not come from the top, as Lynne Brown, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and University Relations, explained.

“A lot of ideas came from the bottom up. Some of it was student affairs listening to students, but a lot of it was also students coming directly to us,” Brown said. “The goal was really to facilitate all of these ideas.”

The message is appropriate coming from a president who promises greater community engagement and openness under his leadership. One event, the graduate student “lightning challenge,” brings academic openness to the fore by publicly pitting graduate students against each other, with a panel of judges determining who has best explained their thesis in three minutes.

The week will culminate on Sunday in what Brown calls “the Big Show,” an inauguration with a modern twist that was unavailable when Sexton entered the office in 2002: livestreaming.

This will be the first NYU Presidential inauguration for a truly global campus, a reality Hamilton was mindful of by including the first Making a Difference Awards into the ceremony. A student, faculty member, young alumnus/a and employee will each be awarded for making a contribution to the city, region, nation or world. The awards, like NYU, are meant to blend the local and international.

Though the celebration is for Hamilton’s appointment, students cannot help but recognize the years of university struggles that led to this moment. For Hamilton, inauguration week is less a celebration of him than a reconciliation and celebration of NYU as a whole.

“He wanted to touch as many parts of the community as he can,” Brown said. “He wants to hold a mirror up to the community and say ‘look at yourselves, you have a lot to be proud of.’ ”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 19 print edition. Email the news team at [email protected].