• April 19, 2014

Polytechnic U. Board Postpones Vote but Says Yes to Merger With NYU

The Board of Trustees of Polytechnic University agreed today to delay for no more than 30 days a vote on whether to merge with New York University, but also left little doubt that it intends to say yes.

“We feel very comfortable about this agreement” to merge, said Craig Matthews, chairman of the board, in an interview with The Chronicle. Also, he said, the trustees took a “sense of the board” vote that showed more than 75 percent of the members “affirmed the board support for the merger.”

He said the trustees had decided to delay the formal vote because they had received a letter from an influential New York State senator, Kenneth P. LaValle, who noted that the Senate Higher Education Committee had learned of allegations about the planned merger that merited investigation.

Mr. Matthews said he didn’t know what Senator LaValle was concerned about, but during today’s board meeting, members spent several hours reviewing allegations of conflicts of interest that had been raised in a letter from two current and one former trustee.

He said the trustees “discussed at length” five specific charges — which he declined to specify — and said that, in each instance, the board found no conflict. All 35 trustees attended the meeting.

Nonetheless, he said, the trustees agreed that it would be prudent to withhold a formal vote until after they had resolved issues with Senator LaValle. To do otherwise, said Mr. Matthews, would be “a slap in the face of the senator.”

The trustees also released a letter, signed by nine department heads, that called on the board to proceed with the merger as a way to encourage greater “cross fertilization” among the disciplines at Polytechnic and at NYU. “Cutting-edge science, technology, and engineering can no longer live in isolation from biology, medicine, dentistry, economics, finance, business, and the world of digital media and entertainment,” they said in the letter. —Goldie Blumenstyk

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