December 17, 2015
Dear NYU Community Members,
Since being appointed NYU’s 16th President last year, I’ve spent several days each month throughout the fall getting acquainted with the NYU community and its far-reaching academic enterprises. I can say now without reservation that, after 35 years of working in higher education, this is the most vibrant university I have seen. From campus to campus and city to city, I’ve been struck by NYU’s ability to express its values not just through big ideas, but especially in those small, everyday moments requiring persistence, hard work, and inspiration.
I have talked with scholars doing work at the forefront of their fields, listened to faculty about their academic priorities, attended a scholarly conference on economics, met with each dean, and sat down with our colleagues undertaking the search for a new provost. I’ve toured Washington Square, the East Side Health Corridor, the facilities in Brooklyn, as well as the facilities in Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, and London. I’ve shaken hands and broken bread with deans, faculty, students, administrators, staff, and alumni in New York and abroad. I’ve seen labs and theatres, residence halls and athletic fields, scientific experiments and experimental art. And what has become increasingly clear is that this institution’s ambition is infectious and unparalleled.
Now, as my wife, Jennie, and I prepare to move to New York to stay, I think back to meeting so many members of the new freshman class and their parents in August. We share something in common, the Class of 2019 and I: the special sense of pride and excitement that comes with joining NYU.
Yet at this moment, at a time in the year when we’re reflecting on all the things in our lives for which we feel grateful, we must be mindful of the very real challenges that face our institution, and the work that remains to be done. In particular, I am thinking of the ongoing conversation on race, diversity, inclusion, and social justice that is taking place in New York. I have watched the video of the town hall meeting in November, and was moved by the power of the voices in the conversation. We must continue to strive to make NYU a more open and inclusive environment, one that reaffirms that all are valued and welcomed and belong here. I take this issue seriously, appreciate the work the Ad Hoc Advisory Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion is doing, and look forward to making progress together.
In that vein, I would offer one more thought, partly because of world events, and partly because of what we heard from many of the students at the town hall. The world has been confronted with numerous acts and threats of terror in recent weeks. That they might give rise to fears is not surprising; what is disconcerting is the resultant rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric. This should be a concern for everyone. But as a university that aims through its broad global presence to educate its students as world citizens and leaders, NYU in particular must set an example of rejecting prejudice. As we mourn the victims of extremists and contemplate the challenges ahead, let us reject taking the counsel of our fears or our prejudices.
I want to express Jennie’s and my thanks for the warm welcome we have received everywhere we have ventured in the university community; it makes this holiday season especially joyous for us. I am very proud to be part of NYU, and ardently believe that we have an incredible foundation on which to build.
I look forward to seeing you when I arrive in New York and we, together, start the New Year and new semester.