Scoopy’s, Week of Aug. 15, 2013


Sexton out after ’16: Embattled New York University President John Sexton has announced that he won’t be staying on after 2016. The Daily News Wednesday evening reported that school officials made the announcement in a memo to students and staffers earlier in the day. Sexton, 70, has worked for N.Y.U. since 1981. He was previously head of N.Y.U. Law School and became president of the university in 2002. He earns $1.5 million per year plus bonuses — including, notably, as The New York Times exposed a few months ago, a $1 million loan he got to buy his Fire Island summer house. In the campus-wide memo, the N.Y.U. board of trustees made it clear that Sexton’s departure was his decision. A faculty member forwarded us the missive, from the trustees’ Special Committee. “The Special Committee notes that the Board is extremely satisfied with the direction and leadership of the University,” it states, in part. “John Sexton’s agreement with the University to serve as President extends to 2016 and he has made clear that he will not serve beyond that. With that as a backdrop, sometime within the next three years the Board will begin a search for a new president. That process will include faculty and student representation on the search committee. It is premature to establish the precise procedures for the search, but a clear role for the faculty and the student communities is something to which the Board is fully committed.” Yet, as the memo states, the trustees now are saying they do want to end the university’s loan program for star faculty (including Sexton) to finance their summer homes. The loans will still be available, but only for primary residences. The loans definitely didn’t sit well with many, especially since, as the News noted, excluding for-profit universities, N.Y.U.’s Class of 2010 owes more than any other graduating class at any other university, $659 million. Sexton will still be getting a $2.5 million “length of service” bonus in 2015, plus $800,000 annually in retirement benefits. On the other hand, he hasn’t exactly been a slouch in the fundraising department, raking in more than $1 million a day for the school during his tenure, and doubling its endowment. And he has raised N.Y.U.’s international profile as what he likes to call a truly “glocal” (global and yet simultaneously local) university. “Locally” speaking, of course, things are quite combative, as the university’s own faculty, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and assorted other Village community groups are suing the city and state for approving N.Y.U.’s 2031 expansion project on its two South Village superblocks. So, it’s hard to view Sexton’s departure outside the context of what many see as an unprecedented and massive overreach by the university while on his watch. One member of N.Y.U. Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, however, told us: “This isn’t news. No one ever expected Sexton to stay beyond 2016. He’s over 70, and has been in place for going on 10 years. This is a P.R. gambit, to make it seem as if they’ve made a big concession, when in fact the faculty want Sexton out A.S.A.P., before N.Y.U.’s meltdown goes even further.” In March, faculty cast a vote of “no confidence” in Sexton’s leadership. Meanwhile, on the court challenge to N.Y.U. 2031, everyone is awaiting the decision of Judge Donna Mills, who indicated after last month’s court date that she is not interested in hearing more oral testimony. Model and TV host Padma Lakshmi turned out at the Centre St. courtroom last month to support the plaintiffs, but ducked the media after reportedly being freaked out by a New York Post reporter who bum-rushed her. Attorney Randy Mastro was “mastroful” in his arguments that the four strips on the superblocks’ edges have been “implicitly” if not “explicitly” parks for decades, and thus should formally be considered as such. And if you’re talking “explicit,” even the manhole covers in these strips are embossed with the official Parks Deparment logo, and there are similar official Parks identifiers plastered all over the strips, Mastro maintained. An N.Y.U. attorney rebutted that way, way back in the 1950s when the streets were widened for highway-style roadways, these strips were mapped as de facto roadbed. But, dude — they’ve never been used as streets since! Suffice to say, “Perry Mason” had nothing on this courtroom drama, but it’s all resting on Mills’s decision.