Hamilton Aims High at Inauguration

Diamond Naga Siu
NYU inaugurated Andrew Hamilton as its 16th President on Sunday, while focusing on the university’s biggest issues and concerns, such as affordability and diversity.

 

Bagpipes played on Sunday morning to commence the 16th presidential inauguration of NYU for Andrew Hamilton. The full crowd in the Skirball Center stood for the anthem, and around 70 administrators and campus leaders filed onto the stage.

While many people cracked Hamilton: The Musical jokes throughout the ceremony, speakers inundated their speeches with more serious topics — most saliently, the social issues that have been at the forefront of the conversations on campus over the last few months. Here were the top three issues discussed during the inauguration:

Diversity

New York Senator Chuck Schumer sat next to Hamilton on the stage, and he started the discussion that morning surrounding diversity.

He called NYU’s journey one that is a distinct American and New York story, especially regarding diversity.

“Welcoming diversity has been a hallmark of NYU and of New York,” Schumer said. “[Albert Gallatin] wanted a place where the brightest minds of the next generation could be inspired and expand, regardless of their faith or background.”

This past year, the university implemented the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Task Force as well as a bias hotline. NYU also hosted a diversity and inclusiveness forum in October and incorporated many conversations regarding race throughout the presidential inauguration week.

He said that the values of NYU made sure that people, regardless of their creed, could have access to a quality education. Although Schumer lauded NYU’s diverse and open background, Hamilton acknowledged that the university has been far from perfect in its diversity efforts.

“How can we build a culture that respects and embraces diversity and inclusion as an indispensable element of academic excellence?” Hamilton asked during his speech. “They should be indispensable elements of an NYU education on all of our campuses.”

He said that diversity will lead to higher quality debates and more excellence throughout the university. Hamilton also mentioned that if the school wants to live up to NYU’s aspirations, the school needed to do more regarding diversity and inclusion.

Hamilton ironically said this on a stage where less than one-third of the people sitting on it were female, and approximately 10 people of color sat among 60 white people. When the Steinhardt string ensemble performed, the people of color population increased onstage by almost 20 percent.

Strengthening NYU Study Away Relationships

While former president John Sexton focused largely on expansion, including his 2031 plan, Hamilton said that he would put a taper on reaching out. He said that he wanted to focus the school’s efforts on what already exists at NYU, especially since Hamilton said that we are not bound to one area.

“We must make a priority of refining the global network,” Hamilton said. “In the long term, that means our focus should be less on further expansion and more on reaching the full potential of the exceptional global enterprise NYU has already built.”

He said that there has never been a time when bold action on education has been as urgent as now, and Hamilton especially wants to strengthen the weaker academic areas, noting that science and engineering would be a focus in the near-term. This spoke to his background as a chemistry academic.

“I emphasize not at the expense of other programs,” Hamilton said. “NYU’s special advantage is its ability to fuse creative talent with technological prowess.”

Affordability

Hamilton saved affordability as one of his last big points of his speech. He reminded the audience that he stymied rate increases for housing and boasted the smallest tuition increase in 20 years from 2015-16 to 2016-17.

“The plain fact is that tuition at NYU places an unacceptable financial strain on too many students,” Hamilton said. “NYU is a tuition-dependent university with a per-student endowment that is among the smallest of any private research university in the nation.”

NYU’s tuition hikes and small endowment do not properly accommodate all demographics, and it has inspired action from many students.

But Hamilton does not think that should not be the case. He said that regardless of the history, the university should not be content with the status quo of an exorbitantly priced higher education. According to Hamilton, his affordability steering committee will release a plan with steps to make NYU more affordable for more students.

“I urge faculty, administrators and students to be receptive to new ideas, to continue to think creatively about how to bend the curve of affordability,” Hamilton said. “We can cover the distance together all the while keeping our eyes firmly on the horizon.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 26 print edition. Email Diamond Naga Siu at [email protected]

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