Explainer: How Student Governing Works

Sayer Devlin
NYU consists of three governing bodies: the Board of Trustees, the University Senate and the Student Senator’s Council. All contribute to the policies of NYU.

NYU is the largest private university in the country, boasting over 50,000 students in 18 colleges and employing thousands of faculty in multiple countries. NYU’s sheer size demands large and robust governing bodies. The university has three — the Board of Trustees, University Senate and Student Senator’s Council — that help it run smoothly.

Board of Trustees

The Board of Trustees is a diverse array of individuals who serve as NYU’s fiduciaries. The board consists primarily of prominent former NYU students as well as various industry leaders including Laurence Fink, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair and Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak. According to NYU’s bylaws, trustees not only serve as fiduciaries but also help create university policy and oversee business affairs. The Board of Trustees has the final say on all university matters and controls all of NYU’s property and estate. The board does not publish the minutes of its meetings and communicates to the NYU community as it wishes. The Board of Trustees writes its own bylaws, and these laws can be amended or repealed by a majority vote. The board also holds a significant amount of autonomy, as it can veto University
Senate resolutions.

“The Board will establish policy and strategic direction for the University and oversee the business and affairs of the University,” the university bylaws read. “The Board may exercise all powers and take all actions not prohibited by law, the Charter or these Bylaws.”

University Senate

The University Senate is the primary governing body of NYU. It consists of 37 student senators, 21 deans and vice-chancellors, 38 tenured or tenure-track faculty, 29 full-time contract faculty and 13 high-level administrators. The Senate is able to act on inter-school matters and regulations, according to bylaws established by the Board of Trustees. Though the University Senate has the final say on resolutions passed by the SSC, the Board of Trustees can overrule any decision the University Senate makes. NYU Divest, for example, worked with Student Senators to draft a resolution on fossil fuel divestment. The resolution was approved by the University Senate before being voted down by the Board of Trustees. A recent University Senate initiative was the creation of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Task Force.

Student Senators Council

SSC is the student arm of NYU’s government. The council consists of 23 school senators elected by students — there are currently two vacancies — with one senator from each of the undergraduate and graduate schools. NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai are each represented by a senator. Additionally, 14 senators-at-large are elected by the previous year’s school senators. Senators-at-large represent interest groups at NYU, such as international students or students on financial aid. They have jurisdiction over about $1.6 million in funding, the bulk of which is used for NYU’s over 300 clubs. Student senators hold the attention of high-level faculty and administrators. The informal relationships between them can help promote student interests and rights. Although students make up the overwhelming majority of the NYU community, the SCC is weaker than other governing bodies — SSC members occupy just 37 seats on the University Senate. SSC is weaker than other governing bodies at NYU. They occupy just 37 seats on the University Senate, despite the fact that students make up the overwhelming majority of the NYU community. There are nearly as many administrators on the University Senate as there are student senators, and currently no student sits on the Board of Trustees.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 27th print edition

Email Sayer Devlin at [email protected]



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