Letter to the Editor: WSN’s coverage of the ELI is erroneous

A letter to the editor in response to “NYU cuts English program that served international students, fires staff” and “Opinion: The racist, anti-worker closure of NYU’s English Language Institute” from NYU spokesperson John Beckman.


Echo Chen

(Illustration by Echo Chen)

John Beckman, NYU spokesperson

Both the recent article and the recent op-ed piece about the English Language Institute were so woefully off-base and erroneous that they require a response to set the record straight.

The closing of the NYU SPS English Language Institute (ELI) Program wasn’t the result of some nefarious conspiracy to shut down the program. Nor were restrictions put in place on who could take courses at ELI.  And there wasn’t some devious, clandestine withdrawal of marketing or other support.

ELI’s closing came about for mundane and straightforward reasons: a drop in enrollment of  85% and a drop in revenue of 95% over the last five years. The program was simply no longer financially sustainable.

The reality is that the NYU students who once made up most of the enrollment didn’t want to take courses there, particularly because of the cost.  The WSN might have known this had they bothered to look at back issues of their own publication, such as this piece or this piece; at the time, the paper railed against the program, then known as ALI, labeling its components “dubious” and designed to “commercialize the college experience”  Or, if the WSN had bothered to ask, we could have pointed them to this 2014 letter (see below) signed by over 50 students that was circulated to faculty complaining about taking courses there.

Since that time, the various NYU schools, responding to these student concerns, developed other programs for English language support, as did the University.  And, of course, online language support programs have also proliferated.  None of this prevented or prohibited students from using ELI, if they wished — they just chose the other options.

You would have thought that the student newspaper might have approved of the University taking steps to address student concerns.  Or that they might have wanted to ask about the reason for the growth in contract faculty in FAS, which was not an indicator of some “NYU anti-labor” outlook but rather the plain consequence of 1) merging Liberal Studies into FAS and 2) converting a number of positions previously held by part-time or non-continuing faculty to full-time continuing contract faculty positions (ie, positions with better pay, better security, and better benefits). But not the WSN, whose reflex to take a jab at the University is seldom blunted by contrary facts, as their recent egregiously erroneous article that claimed NYU’s tuition was rising faster than peers’ makes clear.

The short, simple explanation is that NYU students didn’t want to take ELI (again, previously known as ALI) courses.  When the University and its schools offered alternatives, enrollment in ELI plummeted to a point where it wasn’t financially viable.  The University made sure that those still enrolled could finish their program, and the University has sought to recognize the contributions of the faculty who are affected by paying them through August 31, 2022 regardless of whether they teach, and by developing exit packages for them based on their length of service.

The University has behaved honorably and reasonably, and has been respectful of both student wishes and the service of the ELI faculty.  The WSN’s coverage, by contrast, has been one-sided, revisionist, and filled with errors.


John Beckman

NYU Spokesperson

Contact John Beckman at [email protected].