Video: Sexton Cracks Up Mumbai Audience With Trustee’s Idea To “Fire” Grad Students
By Zoë Schlanger on February 4th, 2013
Over the winter holiday, NYU President John Sexton traveled to Mumbai, India to take part in an NYU-sponsored gathering of India’s corporate leaders and Stern faculty members. President Sexton began his opening remarks to the audience at the India Business Forum in his signature way: by telling a story. But the story he chose–a recounting of a trustee’s joke about firing graduate students–and the laughter that followed, did not sit well with some members of the NYU community.
In his speech, President Sexton described an exchange with an unnamed NYU trustee on a day when NYU’s Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC) was protesting just outside the trustee meeting. GSOC does not currently have a contract with NYU because the administration is not legally obligated to recognize the union, and the group has held demonstrations regularly for years to jostle for a renewed contract. President Sexton quoted the trustee as suggesting that the grad students protesting outside be “fired.”
“And a Stern graduate–I won’t use his name, but he’s prominently associated with an NYU school other than Stern–a Stern graduate put up his hand, and he said, ‘Now let me get this straight. The dispute here is that you say that they’re students, and they say that they’re workers.’ And I said to him, ‘You’ve got it.’ And he said, ‘So admit that they’re workers, and fire them!’”