New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Editorial: NYU, why didn’t you call Robinson’s foul?

Former Athletics Director Stuart Robinson’s hiring displays a concerning disregard for the safety of students and staff on the university’s part.
Kevin Wu
Excerpts from the 2018 Title IX lawsuit against SUNY New Paltz. (Graphics by Kevin Wu; courtesy of NYU Athletics)

Content warning: This article discusses sexual and verbal harassment.

In the past week, WSN has reported on multiple allegations of sexual harassment against former NYU Athletics Director Stuart Robinson, not only at the university, but also at an institution where Robinson worked prior to being hired.

The university told WSN that it did not know about previous allegations against Robinson when he was hired, nor did an executive search firm it contracted to vet applicants. If NYU, with all of its resources, failed to screen allegations of sexual harassment, the safety of students, faculty and staff at the university is at risk.

Evidence of Robinson’s past wasn’t hard to find. A publicly-available Title IX lawsuit — a type of complaint that deals with sex-based discrimination in education — from 2018 shows that Robinson was accused of making “sexually crude and puerile” remarks at a coach who worked in the Athletics Department at the State University of New York, New Paltz. The lawsuit, which ended in a judgment against SUNY in 2018, also alleges that Robinson discriminated against women’s sports teams when allocating resources at New Paltz.

NYU spokesperson John Beckman told WSN that when the university was looking for an athletics director in 2020, it used an outside executive search firm, following issues at other athletics programs across the country. In the years leading up to 2020, Ohio State University, Michigan State University and Penn State University all faced sexual misconduct complaints against their Athletics Departments that ended in multi-million dollar settlements.

Beckman said that one of the firm’s responsibilities was to conduct background checks on applicants, which included civil and criminal litigation and contact with previous employers, and that the lawsuit was not found in a check on Robinson. He said the checks the search firm conducted included conversations with New Paltz, and that no “red flags” came from them. He also said all of the reviews the firm reported from New Paltz were positive.

Not only did New Paltz apparently fail to disclose the Title IX lawsuit to NYU during its vetting process, it publicly advertised him in a positive light years after the lawsuit had ended. In a press release about his departure, New Paltz’s president advertised Robinson as “an engaged leader on campus,” and the vice president for student affairs described him as leaving “a winning legacy in every sense of the word.”

Beckman also said that before WSN reported on the Title IX lawsuit in which Robinson was named, the university was not aware of its existence, nor was the search firm it hired to vet him. 

“NYU had not seen the lawsuit before it was reported in the WSN, and the search firm has indicated that it likewise had not seen the lawsuit before it appeared in the WSN,” Beckman wrote. “That’s a source of concern to us, and we intend to look into this matter to see how that can be avoided in the future.”

While it is comforting that NYU is now looking to address issues in its vetting system, it has had other opportunities to reflect on the flaws in its hiring process in the last few years.

In May 2022, NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine considered hiring David Sabatini, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, despite sexual misconduct allegations against him. After backlash from students, faculty and even former NYU president Andrew Hamilton, the medical school dropped Sabatini from consideration. The university made the right choice in not hiring Sabatini, but this decision should have come far before students and faculty felt the need to become involved.

In another case in October 2022, the university suspended Robert Ginsberg, a professor at NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate, after learning that he had been convicted of possessing and promoting child pornography. The real issue, however, is that it took the university seven years after Ginsberg’s conviction — which happened while he was employed by the university — to uncover and address his offenses. Also concerning was that Ginsberg said he believed there was a “very reasonable possibility” for him to retain his job, even after being suspended by NYU for his behavior. Ginsberg is no longer listed on the Schack Institute’s faculty directory.

We realize that it might not be possible to ask job candidates directly about their criminal history or past involvement in lawsuits — NYU’s own policy for interviewing job candidates says asking about either is unacceptable — and this is understandable in cases where the crimes are minor and no longer relevant. It is an issue, however, that the university has repeatedly missed public evidence of concerning behavior — evidence a student reporter was able to find in under a week. 

While Robinson is no longer employed at the university, NYU can — and should — still be held responsible for its negligence in hiring him. NYU owes it to its students and employees to make meaningful changes to its hiring process and be transparent about them, considering it is their safety that is jeopardized when people like Robinson hold positions of power.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. Opinions expressed in the house editorial reflect the views of WSN’s Editorial Board.

Contact the Editorial Board at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Kevin Wu
Kevin Wu, Digital Director
Kaiyu (Kevin) Wu is a senior double-majoring in Media, Culture, and Communication and Journalism. He directs everything digital at WSN. You can directly reach him digitally at [email protected].

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    Bob KatzSep 29, 2023 at 9:07 pm

    Interesting story. John Beckman has more excuses when NYU messes up.