Opinion: Why you should care about the search for NYU’s next president

NYU’s presidential search committee is looking to define the characteristics of its next president through various open Q&A sessions, but no students are showing up.

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Andy Lee

The NYU student community should utilize the Presidential Search Committee in order to have a say in the future of the school’s leadership. (Andy Lee for WSN)

Blake Salesin, Staff Writer

I was taken aback. Was I in the wrong room? I could’ve sworn that the first student hearing session about NYU’s presidential search was in the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium in the Kimmel Center for University Life. I double, nay, triple checked that I had the right room. One student was patiently waiting among a sea of empty gray chairs and a panel of five individuals, who were seemingly ignoring the lack of onlookers and preparing for what seemed to be the meeting I had shown up for.

It turns out I was in the right place. The purpose of the first Open Student Session, held on Sept. 19, was for students to voice their opinions on who the university should pick as its 17th president, and I came on a whim, with no questions. Five members of the presidential search committee — including one student representative, senior SGA chair Ron Hall — awaited our questions. But there was a cloud over the entirety of the meeting. Why did no one show up?

The lack of students in the room was disappointing, but hardly surprising. Low student and faculty involvement in administrative selection processes has long been the status quo. Attendance was similarly low at hearing sessions for the hiring of now-outgoing President Andrew Hamilton back in 2014 and again in 2021 during the search for a new College of Arts & Science dean.

Student involvement is supposed to be an instrumental element of the process. According to Evan Chesler, a member of NYU’s board of trustees and vice chair of the committee, who led the panel on Monday, the committee is looking to narrow candidates down by using characteristics that students look for in a president. The goal of the conversations is to compile a thorough idea of what the various groups within the university are concerned about, while taking into account the submitted comments, ideas and questions on the student ideas board — of which there are, as of Sept. 21, only eight.

Can the administrative committee do a better job at engaging the NYU community? Sure. But this isn’t entirely on NYU. Today is the day to put the NYU student community on the hot seat for not taking advantage of a prime opportunity. For once, we get to directly address important members of our community on the pressing issues we face as students. Why aren’t we taking this chance? There is a constant notion that administrators don’t listen to students or don’t care about what we have to say. I can’t prove that theory wrong. But what I can say is that on Sept. 23, at 9 a.m. on Zoom, and on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. at Brooklyn MetroTech, they are willing to listen to what we want addressed in the years to come.

We have the unique opportunity to preemptively confront issues of our community by demanding that candidates be aware of certain shortcomings of the NYU administration. NYU is becoming increasingly global and welcoming more international students to its Washington Square campus. It could be advantageous to bring in a president who is experienced in the fields of international education. Or what about hiring a president who is pro-union? The most-liked idea on the search committees IdeaScale, an online community forum for suggestions, is a note asking for a pro-union president who is willing to support collective bargaining efforts. These are just two examples of student and faculty led discussions that the search committee will now grapple with in their decisions.

The reality is that the search committee does not yet have in mind what the next president will look like. We could be the ones to shape those qualities.

As NYU continues to grow both in size and recognition, it is important that the resources, safety and treatment of students continue to improve as well. When given the platform to initiate conversation on a level that affects the leadership and presidency of our school, we must involve ourselves. Visit NYU’s presidential search committee website and ask as many questions as you can think of. No one will hear you if you don’t speak up.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Blake Salesin at [email protected]