This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on March 23.
On March 18, former Yale Provost Andrew Hamilton was named the next president of New York University.
Hamilton, who served as provost from 2004 to 2008 and joined the Yale faculty in 1997 as a professor of chemistry, most recently served as vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. At NYU, he will succeed John Sexton, who has led the university since 2002 and most recently faced criticism regarding NYU’s expansion into Abu Dhabi, one of several contentious issues that led faculty to issue votes of no confidence against him in 2013. Still, following his nomination, Hamilton praised Sexton and said he was excited to lead NYU, a school he described as a “game changer” in the field of higher education.
“I am delighted to be selected as NYU’s 16th president,” Hamilton said in a statement. “I have been a keen observer of NYU, its accomplishments, its trajectory and its renowned president, John Sexton, for some time.”
Hamilton is one of five consecutive Yale provosts to be named to the top job of a university. He follows Susan Hockfield, who became president of MIT; Alison Richard, who became vice-chancellor of University of Cambridge; Judith Rodin, who became president of University of Pennsylvania; and most recently University President Peter Salovey, who succeeded Hamilton as provost in 2008.
Hamilton’s largest contributions to Yale during his time as provost included the acquisition of Yale’s West Campus, the re-establishment of the Yale School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and reform to the tenure process, according to his University of Oxford personal bio.
“Andy Hamilton has led major initiatives to strengthen Yale in science, engineering and medicine while at the same time enthusiastically supporting investments in the humanities, social sciences and the arts,” former University President Richard Levin said in a statement in 2008, following Hamilton’s nomination to vice-chancellor at Oxford. “He is a first-rate scholar, who is respected by his faculty colleagues as a wise academic leader.”
According a press release by NYU, Hamilton was selected from among a pool of over 200 nominees during an eight-month search for NYU’s next president. He will officially begin his duties as NYU president in January 2016.
Salovey said the combination of having served both as provost of Yale and vice-chancellor of Oxford will give Hamilton a unique strategic and international perspective on issues facing higher education.
“Andrew Hamilton’s energy, creativity and wisdom will serve NYU well,” Salovey said. “I very much enjoyed working with vice-chancellor Hamilton when he was Yale’s provost, and I was a dean. His style is collaborative and engaging; he is someone who always has intriguing ideas.”
Still, it remains clear that Hamilton will likely inherit challenges faced under Sexton’s leadership, including criticism of NYU’s expansion.
NYU’s international presence has not been without controversy, particularly in regards to its campus in Abu Dhabi.
Last week, an NYU professor was barred from entering the United Arab Emirates following his public criticism of the condition of migrant workers in the country. Other controversies often colored Sexton’s tenure, including the collective bargaining rights of its graduate school teaching assistants and lack of freedom of political expression in both the NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai campuses.
In addition to controversy abroad, Sexton’s tenure has also faced criticism in Greenwich Village, where NYU’s main campus is located.
Andrew Berman, director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, said he welcomed the leadership change with “guarded optimism.”
“NYU’s unrelenting expansionism in the surrounding community, without regard for the impact upon the residential environment around it or consideration of reasonable alternatives that would meet their needs while respecting the concerns of Greenwich Village residents, has led to an extremely strained relationship,” he said in an email. “We hope that Mr. Hamilton will be willing to consider alternatives that the university administration has thus far been unwilling to, in order to repair the nearly two-century-old relationship between NYU and the community which it has called home since its founding.”
He added that while he hopes Hamilton will be more respectful and engaging of differing viewpoints than his predecessor, ultimately the success of that relationship will come down to the policies.
NYU faculty, however, were more optimistic about Hamilton’s ability to restore relations between the faculty and the administration, which reached a low point in 2013 when faculty issued multiple votes of no confidence on Sexton’s leadership.
Allen Mincer, a physics professor and the incoming chairman of the NYU Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Senators Council, said that in recent years, the NYU administration has taken greater efforts to engage faculty in university governance. He added that he is hopeful that Hamilton will continue this effort as he steps into the university’s leadership.
“There is much still to do,” Mincer said in an email. “But the choice of Dr. Hamilton and everything he has been quoted as saying on the subject indicate a strong will to continue in this direction.”
Jules O’Connor, NYU senior and student member of the Presidential Search Committee, said she was excited about the selection of Hamilton since he is dedicated to enhancing the student experience, as well as furthering and solidifying the “NYU global network.”
Despite criticism of Sexton, Linda Lorimer, Yale’s vice president for global and strategic initiatives — who was instrumental in global projects like Yale-NUS — said she believes NYU’s global ambition was one of the main things that attracted Hamilton to the university.
“NYU is mighty fortunate to have convinced Andy, who has been an outstanding leader at two very different universities,” Lorimer said. “He will want to work very closely and collaboratively with the faculties of all of the schools there, as he did here and at Oxford.”
Hamilton’s appointment was unanimously recommended by NYU’s search committee to the Board of Trustees.