Under Chairman of the Board Martin Lipton and President John Sexton, New York University has been operating as a real estate development/management business with a predatory higher-education side venture. A group of 400 faculty members at NYU, Faculty Against the Sexton Plan (FASP), have been working for years against what Pam Martens has called “running NYU as a tyrannical slush fund for privileged interests.” FASP just published a devastating document, The Art of the Gouge, which describes how NYU engages in a mind-numbing range of tricks and traps to extract as much in fees as possible from students, while at the same time failing to invest in and often degrading the educational “product”.
The first part of the report goes through a mind-numbing and degrading set of scams perpetrated on students, including the bait and switch of hitting them with extra charges they can’t possibly find out about before they have committed to the school, to the tune of an estimated $10,000 per year; providing mediocre education in programs that require “study abroad” while also requiring them to stay in grossly overpriced university housing; admitting a high proportion of foreign students, precisely because they pay higher fees (and predictably, NYU’s premiums are even higher than that of other schools), and offering shamelessly overpriced, narrow, and not very good health services.
Mind you, that list only scratches the surface.
The second part, which describes how the funds are used, describes in gory detail how the school throws money at real estate empire-building, disproportionately for administrative space and housing when teaching facilities are in short supply. The third document describes how NYU is an even more extreme practitioner of squeezing the incomes of faculty while gold-plating administrator pay and perks. Consider one famous example that we discussed in 2013, Jacob Lew, who was then the presumed incoming Treasury Secretary:
Remember, Lew came from a job at NYU where he already looks to have been considerably overpaid. He received over $840,000 for the academic year 2002-2003, which had him earning more than most university presidents, including NYU’s president. And on top of that, as Pam Martens ferreted out, he was apparently given a $1.3 million house. I’m not making that up, go read her piece. The mechanism was that NYU lent the $1.3 million to buy the house to Lew and then forgave it over five years. Oh, and they paid him the money to pay the interest too. We will assume that the forgiveness of debt was reported properly to the IRS.
Pam Martens has long been bird-dogging the grifting at NYU. As she wrote later in 2013:
In September 2009, the New York Times published a remarkable exercise in inanity, profiling John Sexton, President of NYU..
We don’t, for example, learn from the interview that his home on Fire Island has been financed since 1994 by several million dollars in loans from the NYU School of Law Foundation and NYU itself…
This is not the only residence that NYU has made possible for its President. He has the use of two well appointed apartments owned by NYU in Manhattan. Sexton, who turned 70 in September, is also set to receive a length of service bonus of $2.5 million in 2015 and an annual pension of $800,000 when he retires. That pension is the equivalent of NYU taking $10 million of its assets and placing them in an immediate annuity for Sexton.
Sexton has plenty of company when it comes to getting out of the city in the summer through the generosity of NYU. Richard Tsien, Director of the NYU Neuroscience Institute, bought a house in East Fishkill, New York, 76 miles from the university, for $1,125,000 in February 2012 with $500,000 in financing from NYU. According to an online description, it’s a stone house on 7 park-like acres with a flowing stream and a functioning 12-foot water wheel.
Numerous other NYU professors have country homes financed by the NYU School of Law Foundation or NYU. Between primary residences and vacation homes, NYU and its affiliated nonprofits have an estimated $72 million to $96 million outstanding in loans to faculty and administrators. The university has acknowledged 168 loans.
So the sort of conduct documented in these three reports is no surprise if you’ve been following this story, but having them documented in so much detail is devastating. I hope you’ll read them and circulate them widely, above all to parents whose children might be considering applying to NYU.