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In Response: The FASP Letter of Sept. 19, 2013

Sep 20, 2013

Yesterday FASP sent out another note to the community containing many of their familiar attacks on NYU’s direction. It ended with this comment:

“We conclude by adding that we represent the faculty, not only as opponents of the Sexton Plan per se, but----far more important----as professors, bound always by our ethical duty, and our intellectual responsibility, to distinguish fact from error, truth from lie.”

--FASP Letter of Sept 19, 2013

030-nyc A worthy mission, to be sure.

So, it seems only fitting to point out that many of their core assertions contain errors of fact and conflation of issues.

On Loans

FASP claims that the University loan program favors the University administrators and drains the budget. Here’s a key problem with what they imply: the loan program does not cost the University. In fact it earns NYU a small return.

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Foreign Exchange

Sep 17, 2013

Can the liberal arts thrive in countries with more restrictive civil liberties than we have in the US? Can a university deliver a liberal arts education, with its distinctive values of free inquiry and critical thinking, in such countries without sacrificing its integrity?

Those were the questions posed by Jim Sleeper, a lecturer at Yale, in a recent piece in the NY Times.

At NYU, we believe the clear answer is yes. We base it on several factors: the fact we and our partners committed to academic freedom as an explicit pre-condition to moving ahead with the development of our campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai; our choice of prominent US academics to run these campuses and ensure that free inquiry would be preserved; the actual, on-the-ground experience of our faculty; and our belief that a liberal arts education is not a hothouse flower, fragile and vulnerable, but a hardier species that can thrive in different climates and have an important impact on students even when pursued in societies unlike those in the west.

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NYU’s New Events Calendar

Aug 27, 2013

Like the city around us, NYU has never lacked activities. Each week, the university provides scores (if not hundreds) of events ranging from guest lectures to art exhibits, live performances to charitable service—as well as conferences, symposia, and dance parties.

What we have lacked is a calendar that was up-to-snuff and people wanted to use. But that has changed.

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“Law & Order: NYU” or “CSI: NYU”?

Aug 23, 2013


Bones found near the Washington Mews appear to be the remains of an equine toe. 

Viewers of the now-defunct television series “Law & Order” are undoubtedly familiar with the show’s mythical “Hudson University.” The institution offered a seemingly endless supply of victims, suspects, and witnesses—but, if memory serves, never any forensics experts.

That changed—in the real world, at least—earlier this week at NYU.

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NYU Exhibits the Dramatic Murals of Painter and NYU Professor Hale Woodruff

Aug 7, 2013

Underground 007_HW_DIGThe Underground Railroad

The arts have been a strong suit of NYU from its beginning. Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph and early version of the telegraphic alphabet that would come to bear his name, was appointed a professor of painting and sculpture at NYU – one of the first faculty appointments at NYU.

Now the work of another arts professor—Hale Woodruff (1900-1980), an African-American painter and muralist who was a faculty member at NYU from 1946 to 1968 at the school that evolved into the present day Steinhardt and who was a major figure in New York City’s artistic community in the years after World War II—is being exhibited at NYU’s 80WSE Galleries on the east side of Washington Square Park. The exhibition is sponsored by the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and NYU’s Faculty Resource Network.

Prior to coming to New York, Woodruff was commissioned by Talladega College, a small black college in Alabama, to paint a series of murals illustrating important moments in black American history. 

Woodruff painted six murals: huge, colorful, and bold, they dramatically depict the story of the Amistad (the slave ship Africans mutinied to gain their freedom), the underground railroad, and the founding of Talladega College by freed slaves.


The Mutiny on the Amistad

Woodruff was at heart an educator, and he viewed the murals as an effort to teach students at Talladega—and anyone else who viewed them—not only about important episodes in American history, but also that black men and women could be strong and heroic figures. Living and working in the segregated South, Woodruff painted the Africans on the Amistad and the freed slaves who built Talladega College as strong, confident, and intelligent men and women.

Several years after completing the Talladega murals, Woodruff moved to New York to begin teaching at NYU. In 1967, the year before he retired, he was honored with NYU’s Great Teacher Award, and the University sponsored a retrospective of his artwork.

He also immersed himself in the city’s artistic world. He joined a short-lived salon, called “Studio 35,” with artists that included Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning (Woodruff was the only black artist in the group). Later, he created an artists’ collective called “Spiral” that sponsored discussions about African-American art and the civil rights movement.

OpeningOpening Day at Talladega College

So it was only fitting that when Talladega College (which is also a participant in NYU’s Faculty Resource Network) decided to restore the Woodruff murals and send them on a national tour, they would be exhibited at NYU.

“Hale Woodruff played a leading role in one of the most important undertakings in African-American, and by extension, American art in the 20th century,” said Debra Spencer, an NYU art consultant on the exhibit. “Through his murals, he introduced powerful narratives from black history that empowered generations of black Americans and challenged white Americans about how they understood the history of the United States.”

The Woodruff exhibition runs through Oct. 13, 2013. The 80 WSE Galleries, located at 80 Washington Square East, are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

--Philip Lentz

Setting the Record Straight

Aug 5, 2013

Last week, Provost David McLaughlin responded to a letter from the Faculty Against the Sexton Plan that had many negative things to say about NYU.

That response – an email to faculty – provided a straightforward yet compelling set of metrics about NYU’s academic improvement over the last 10 years. Understanding that momentum – the improvement in the quality of NYU’s faculty, students, scholarship, undergraduate experience, facilities, and stature that has transformed NYU over the last three decades – is the key to understanding NYU.

That upward trajectory is continuing, so I thought you might want to see what he wrote. It’s powerful.

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When Arab Spring Becomes All Out War: Tisch Photography Exhibit Explores the Human Cost of Unrest in Syria

Jul 25, 2013

HusampostcardThe sleepy summer term tableau of in the main TSOA Building foyer contrasts sharply with the hustle and bustle of regular term-time. All the more reason to venture through the lobby, behind the elevators, to take in Bridget Auger’s powerful photo and text exhibit, “This is Not Me: Enduring Syria’s War.”

Sponsored by the Tisch Department of Photography and Imaging, the exhibition subject matter couldn’t be timelier. But its main strength lies is the deftness with which it tells the tale of two friends as they experience the ongoing conflict in Syria from inside and outside their homeland.

Auger, a Tisch Photography alumna (BFA, ’06) and the 2012 Tierney Fellowship award recipient from the Department of Photography & Imaging, both lovingly and realistically depicts her subjects as they register the range of emotions provoked by the events from 2011 to the present: excitement, hope, terror, disillusionment, isolation and despair. Coupled with the images are verbatim quotes, rounding out a compact exhibition that provides the viewer with both a complex and nuanced portrait not only of the situation in present day Syria, but of the hubris and disappointment that encompass revolution.

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Gallatin's Duncombe Opens Up More's 'Utopia'

Jul 23, 2013

Sir Thomas More headed out of this world on July 6, 1535, but left behind one of western civilization’s most recognizable texts, Utopia, which describes a mythical society that More sharply contrasts with his 16th-century Europe.

More, who was executed for running afoul of King Henry VIII, was a vociferous opponent of the Protestant Reformation as Lord Chancellor of England.

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In Cleveland, the Improbable becomes the Probable

Jul 18, 2013

"That things improbable oft will hap to men. For what is improbable does happen, and therefore it is probable that improbable things will happen."

Or so wrote Aristotle more than two thousand years ago.

While the Greek mathematician’s perspective undoubtedly applied to countless events in ancient Greece, he most certainly was not thinking about baseball, which wasn’t invented until the 19th century.


Yet, Aristotle’s words rang true this past weekend in Cleveland when fan Greg Van Niel grabbed four balls during a single game at the home-town Indians’ Progressive Field.

Van Niel’s accomplishment—or good fortune—immediately raised the question: what’s the probability of nabbing four foul balls at a major-league baseball game?

One estimate put it as a one in a trillion chance. But we decided to dig deeper using one of our own experts: Courant Professor Charles Newman, a probability expert who directed the institute from 2002 to 2006.

Image courtesy of Schyler at en.wikipedia

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During Heat Wave, NYU Helps ConEd and NYC with Energy Curtailment

Jul 17, 2013

Like Shakespeare in the Park or the Washington Square Summer Music Fest, it’s become a summer ritual: NYC braces for a heat wave, and NYU students and employees start looking for ways to reduce their energy usage by turning off non-essential lights and mechanical systems across the University. If you have ever been through a black-out – and many of us in the NYU community have – you’ll understand why people willingly comply: as Con-Edison tells us, these efforts will help reduce the chance of brown-outs, black-outs, and damage from over-heating to the city's electrical system.

In ways large and small NYU is doing its part.


A NYU engineer checks the main circuit breaker control panel in the CoGen plant.  The red lines at the top indicate ConEd’s electrical grid; the blue lines at the bottom indicate NYU’s electrical grid.  Looping lines of both colors represent where the two grids meet, and they indicate that the two electrical power grids are in synch.


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