Monday, June 23, 2008

As vote for NYU to absorb Polytechnic approaches, some strange silences

Today the Higher Education Committee of the New York State Board of Regents will discuss a proposal "to amend the charter of Polytechnic University, as requested, to effect an affiliation with New York University," and a vote on the proposal will be held Tuesday. As I've explained, the proposed "consolidation" or "merger" is more like an absorption by the larger NYU of the MetroTech-based Poly.

While there are clear potential benefits for both institutions, there are also reasons to be wary, reasons that, unaccountably, neither the major media nor the Board of Regents seem to have noticed. (The Brooklyn Paper did follow up and the Daily Eagle published a commentary from an outraged alumnus. Here's an alumni site.)

Report and response

A report issued May 20 by State Sen. Kenneth LaValle, the chairman of the State Senate Committee on Higher Education, raised some serious questions about the deal, stating that in three instances the board did not act with the duty of care and/or loyalty required by a fiduciary, notably negotiations conducted in secret, the exclusion of dissident board members from working committees, and the failure to update a three-year-old appraisal of the university's valuable Downtown Brooklyn property.

On June 8, Polytechnic posted a two-page commentary in response to those three conclusions, noting that it was "not a detailed rebuttal of the Senator’s Report." For example, the response noted that Poly would remain the owner of its real estate after the "Affiliation," that the board "had access to detailed, expert analysis of the substantial cost of renovation of Polytechnic’s buildings and was aware that the Brooklyn real estate market was softening," and the board "was fully aware that Polytechnic’s short-term and long-term financial distress went much deeper than the value of its real estate."

Curious silence

No mention of LaValle's report, or the response, appears in the summary material posted on the Board of Regents web site.

And no article about that report has been published in major newspapers. That's strange, because the New York Times, on 3/7/08, published an article headlined Trustees of Polytechnic University in Brooklyn Approve Merger With N.Y.U., quoting LaValle as saying he thought it “presumptive of them to move ahead without waiting for the report to be finished.”

So you'd think that the Times, at least, would have followed up on the report. Times higher education reporter Karen Arenson, who wrote that story, left her job May 1, taking a buyout package. The newspaper seems to have dropped the ball.

Also, LaValle's posture has been curious; he released the report without an accompanying press release or quote, and has been unavailable for comment--at least when comment was requested by me.

The result: no discussion.

1 comment:

  1. A reasonable amount of discussion has gone on at NYU - check out www.nyuinc.org for a few articles that I have written - there are indeed a multitude of problems with the proposed merger.

    -Duncan

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