Lawyer to N.Y.U. Profs: Raise Your Hand If You’ve Been Harrassed, Intimidated

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In the latest chapter of an ongoing saga, a lawyer representing Faculty Against the Sexton Plan is asking N.Y.U. professors to come forward if they’ve been harassed or intimidated by the school’s administration.

“Some faculty members believe that their promotions have been blocked or stalled since speaking out against the Sexton Plan,” wrote Jim Walden, an attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, in an e-mail encouraging victims to come forward. “Others have reported sudden interference with their plans to move their families into larger faculty apartments. Such retaliation is inappropriate and potentially illegal. The surest way to stop such tactics is to expose them.”

Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of Media, Culture and Communication at N.Y.U. and a spokesperson for Faculty Against the Sexton Plan, said the e-mail was intended to encourage open discussion. “It’s all the more difficult to have that rational conversation when people are afraid to disagree with their superiors,” he told The Local. “We would like people to break this nervous silence and talk honestly and openly about this kind of intimidation, which I think affects people on a broad range of issues.”

Though the e-mail, sent yesterday, doesn’t identify the school’s president as the source of the alleged intimidation and harassment, Mr. Miller was more blunt in conversation with The Local. “It obviously comes from John Sexton,” he said. “Who could it come from but the leader of the institution?”

Mr. Walden said he is not currently planning to file suit against the administration, but said, “We are concerned that N.Y.U is taking action against faculty who are expressing their opinions and their First Amendment rights.”

He said, “We’re not going to stand in the wings and let that happen.”

John Beckman, a spokesperson for N.Y.U., said he had seen the letter. “Apparently their motto is ‘When we don’t have much of a case, let’s just fall back on ‘Swift Boating’ the other guy,'” he wrote in an e-mail.

Next month, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at N.Y.U. will decide whether to issue a vote of “no confidence” in Mr. Sexton’s leadership. Faculty members have voiced unhappiness over the university’s plans to expand in Greenwich Village, and with aspects of its international outreach.

Faculty Against the Sexton Plan currently has 150 public members and twice as many who will not publicly list their names for fear of retaliation, said Mr. Miller.