Inside Higher Ed published a piece about last week’s vote of no confidence this morning. The piece’s title, “‘No Confidence’ in the System,” captures its overall approach, which shifts attention away from the focus (and the ad hominem attacks) on President Sexton and sets the vote in the context not only of similar votes at other research universities, but also of the challenges facing universities that seek to globalize their programs. The article quotes me about halfway through, and I reiterate two strongly held belifes: 1) that NYU’s attempt to build a “global network university” potentially represents a great leap forward for US universities and that 2) the opportunity to build a campus in Abu Dhabi was a unique opportunity that John Sexton was right to seize.
Toward the end of the article, the author, Kevin Kiley, includes a paragraph that I want to highlight here, because it is one of the lessons that I believe we must learn from this episode:
University administrators are also under increased pressure to move quickly because of financial challenges facing the sector. For example, in less than a year more than 60 colleges and universities signed on to partner with Coursera. NYU faces even greater pressure on this front, higher education officials say, because its roughly $2.8 billion endowment is relatively modest given its size, academic profile and ambitions. And quick action is something traditional governance models, which emphasize deliberate decision-making, are ill-equipped to do.
I said something similar — albeit more bluntly — in my post “Who’s Confused?” for which I’ve taken a fair amount of flak. But I stand by what I wrote: “We don’t have NYU Abu Dhabi without John Sexton. We don’t have a GNU. As someone who’s had a little bit of hands-on experience with each of those entities, I’m glad we didn’t leave the call about whether to establish them to my faculty colleagues. We’d still be arguing about it.”