Letter to the Editor: ‘John Sexton Should Not Be Speaking at NYU’

John Beckman, NYU Spokesperson

To the Editor:

WSN’s editorial about John Sexton stands out not just for its gratuitousness, but also for its errors of fact and poor reasoning. I cannot allow it to stand unanswered.

First of all, this is not a matter of inviting John Sexton back to NYU. He was appointed to NYU’s faculty in 1981, and he remains a tenured professor of law to this day. It is disturbing to see the university’s student newspaper advocate for a member of this community – indeed, a faculty member – to be silenced on an issue on which he has written extensively throughout his career.

Second, let’s get the facts straight about some items:

  • Any expansion NYU undertakes is in service of its academic mission. If you look at most major research universities, you will see new academic facilities being developed — Columbia University’s Manhattanville project, Harvard University’s Allston project, Cornell Tech, Yale University’s Bayer campus, the University of Pennsylvania’s Connect program, et cetera — because universities must constantly respond to a changing world with new academic programs that match it. NYU’s recent expansion plan – which will occur on its own property and will provide much needed classrooms, performing arts education space, dorms and an up-to-date athletics facility — was supported by every major editorial board in this city, by the City Planning Commission, by the City Council, by the Mayor’s Office and by the State Courts. And a faculty-led panel found that the project was within NYU’s financial capabilities and would not have an impact on tuition.
  • Not only was NYU not unconcerned about the welfare of workers, the construction of NYU Abu Dhabi was unprecedented in the region for trying to set higher standards for workers — no other institution even tried before NYU. And the fact is, the majority of the workers did benefit from these higher standards; however, a large minority did not get the higher wages and benefits we intended. We didn’t make excuses; instead, we and our partners took responsibility publicly, brought in investigators to conduct a review that was published publicly and have since been working to rectify what happened by compensating those who didn’t receive the higher wages and benefits.
  • The campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai have not involved a single dollar of money from our NYC campus; they were paid for by the local governments. WSN has been told this time and again, and time and again WSN wrongly characterizes it otherwise.

Lastly, it seems the height of irony that the same newspaper that supported the NYU College Republicans’ invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos as a speaker would condemn The Review and Debates’ selection of John Sexton, who has served NYU with distinction for over 35 years as faculty member, dean and president.

WSN is entitled to its own opinions of John Sexton’s policies, but it is not entitled to its own facts. And it is a sad day when the editorial board of WSN cannot recognize honorable, dedicated, successful service to this university, even if it disagrees with the person.

Shame on you.


John Beckman

Email John Beckman at [email protected]



  1. Does the Vice President for Public Affairs seriously end a public letter with “Shame on you”?

    Talking about shame, can we also discuss how John Sexton turned faculty housing into a duplex for his son and daughter-in-law? Is that a “straight” fact?

  2. For those of us who attended/remember NYU in the 70’s, the university has come a long way. NYU almost wasn’t! The work of leaders including Oliva, Sexton, and countless others have made today possible.
    Back in the day, there was much vigorous discussion of matters ranging from war, to the meaning of a university and an education. Your conversation today carries on that tradition.
    Please do not silence dialogue.
    Please do not forget that!
    And.. if anyone needs a reminder …
    There is a piece of the former Heights campus outside the Stern building.The difficult decision to close and sell the Heights campus, began the future you now enjoy!
    The leaders since that time built the NYU that you know today.
    You are in a far greater place today thanks to all of them!
    So, keep the discussion going.
    Remember the privilege you have being where you are.
    Good luck to you all!!!


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