On the evening of Apr. 7, NYU Shanghai students had the chance to sit down in conversation with NYU’s President, John Sexton. Organized by the Breaking Barriers Initiative, the event was an opportunity to discuss any issues students had surrounding the topic of ‘transitions’. In particular, the conversation was designed to allow students to express any concerns they had about the upcoming transitional period that NYU Shanghai students are facing: the Class of 2017’s departure, and the incoming Class of 2019. The Breaking Barriers Initiative hosted President John Sexton to help answer students’ questions and provide his experiences, with regards to the NYU Abu Dhabi campus and his vision for the Global Network University.

The conversation took place in a small conference room – over 35 people were placed in a tight-knit and communal setting, showcasing the sense of community that the Breaking Barriers Initiative advocates. President Sexton commenced the discussion by stating that while most of the comments were not to be disclosed by On Century Avenue, students were able to discuss the ideas outside of the event.

As a starting point, President Sexton addressed the issue of sophomore and freshman dynamics, and the way in which this would change as the Class of 2017 disperses to other NYU global sites. The theme of the event – “transitions” – evidenced how the current students were concerned about how much NYU Shanghai will change, and how much will remain the same once the Class of 2017 returns in their Senior Year.

Ultimately, President Sexton addressed this, by stating, “[What you have all created here at NYU Shanghai is] wonderful. The sophomores began to create that last year, very, very consciously. And then the freshman came in. And that was the first time they got used to having a class behind. The freshman this year have an advantage of a class that was a little farther down the road. The sophomores were still learning.”

BBI then opened up the conversation to students – attempting to steer the conversation towards the theme of “transitions”. However, students were quick to address concerns that they had with the 2015-2016 tuition costs, the sustainability of the Global Network University and the incoming President of New York University, Andrew Hamilton.

The questions surrounding raised tuition costs were ultimately in response to a recent petition, created by an NYU New York freshman, to lower the attendance cost of 2015-2016. While President Sexton claimed he had no knowledge of the petition, he went on to state that while the tuition is expected to go up 3 to 3.5% for next year, this is in line with increases that occur every year.

However, perhaps this is a question to ask Andrew Hamilton. As the sixteenth President of NYU, Andrew Hamilton will take over all duties starting January 1st of 2016. Until then, according to President Sexton, Sexton is still presiding over all matters – although he is eager to start a new chapter in his life.

In relation to the actual theme of the conversation, it was clear that students were concerned about the temporary departure of the Class of 2017. With regards to the return of the Sophomore class in 2017, President Sexton gave one of his many anecdotal stories: “I’ll tell you something, with virtually every student that came to one of my student dinners in New York, most of them had just come back from Studying Away – and I asked them about any negative aspects of their experiences – and they answered with the fact that they were not with their family. I was in Buenos Aires last semester, I did a J-term in Berlin and I’ve been away and I couldn’t wait to come back. That part, I hope for you. It’s a good thing, but it’s a challenge. You’re going to miss each other.”

For the sophomore students, regardless of their chosen Study Away locations, NYU Shanghai is and will remain a home for them to come back to. This was ultimately the goal of having a Global Network University – while there is a multitude of opportunities to explore locations around the world, the portal campuses should still act as ‘home’ for students. In particular, with the size of NYU Shanghai – and NYU Abu Dhabi – regardless of incoming classes, the student community will act as a family.

Although an example of community, the number of attendees may be attributed to the rising concerns in the NYU Shanghai community. As the semester is coming to a close, there has been increasing anxiety among the NYU Shanghai sophomore class about how everything that they have created – clubs, associations, changes in academic curriculum and more – may change with the incoming classes.

While not all these concerns were specifically addressed, President Sexton did make it clear that NYU Shanghai is a community, regardless of the fact that the classes are everchanging. Breaking Barriers Initiative member and freshman, Anurag Rakshit, acknowledged that the “conversation was very candid and the discussion was all inclusive. [Ultimately] John Sexton’s message was clear: NYU Shanghai is for ‘doers’ and what we do with our education here (and across the GNU) will define how people everywhere will perceive our school.”

This article was written by Isabella Farr. Send an email to managing@oncenturyavenue.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Dylan Crowe


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