Academic freedom, expression evaluated at portals

John Ambrioso
Illustration by Felipe De La Hoz
Illustration by Felipe De La Hoz

As NYU continues to increase its global presence, it begins to contend with radically different rules regulating free speech in host countries. Many professors, student organizations and activists have criticized the university’s willingness to work with governments that place limitations on expression.

Some students who have studied at portal campuses said the degree to which their speech is restricted depends as much on the content of the speech as it does on where the speech is made.

“You can do everything on [NYU Abu Dhabi’s] campus,” NYUAD sophomore Isabelle Galet-Lalande said. “It’s just as progressive, if not more progressive, than anywhere else. The difference, though, is that we don’t necessarily take everything outside of the university walls.”

Galet-Lalande said while she has never felt that her academic freedom was restricted, even when discussing subjects that are frowned upon by the U.A.E. government, her freedom of expression outside the classroom is more limited. Galet-Lalande said she understands that she is limited by U.A.E. laws, which prohibit speech that defames Islam, criticizes the government or promotes certain sexual acts.

NYUAD spokesman Greg Bruno said the university is aware of the distinction between academic freedom and freedom of expression and has advised NYUAD students and faculty about its relevance.

“NYU Abu Dhabi enjoys full academic freedom,” Bruno said. “It is also worth noting that academic freedom is different than freedom of expression. As an example, it should not be assumed that academic freedom would protect tweets or Facebook posts.”

Bruno added that these legal limits on speech do not restrict academic freedom, which he said is the chief concern of the university.

Others, however, have been more suspicious of the arrangement. NYUNY english professor John Archer said the restrictions on freedom of expression at NYUAD are more significant than the promise of academic freedom.

“It is my belief that academic freedom is meaningless unless it is practiced on a continuum with freedom of expression in the society of which a university is a member,” Archer said. “The display of [academic freedom] as signs of freedom for visitors to the country and for national elites covers up or distracts from the political and labor abuses of an autocratic government.”

However, NYU spokesman John Beckman said academic freedom is an issue separate from freedom of expression, and a freedom that the university is confident it has secured.

“I do not understand why the critics believe that these values — academic freedom and the liberal arts — are so fragile that they will inevitably crumple in a society that is different from our own,” Beckman said.

Like students in Abu Dhabi, students at NYU Shanghai are regulated by a strict set of laws regarding free speech. Both sites have student publications, NYUAD’s The Gazelle and NYUSH’s On Century Avenue, that have to follow national media laws restricting what they can publish. On Century Avenue also needs to have its content approved by faculty before publishing.

GLS sophomore Taylor Patrash, who spent her freshman year in Shanghai, said she was able to exercise academic freedom on campus but free expression was more limited. Patrash said students at NYUSH were given instruction at orientation on how to circumvent China’s notoriously limited access to the Internet while in the dorms using proxy servers.

Patrash added that, while she never felt restricted in the classroom, she did sometimes feel the need to self-censor.

“In an academic environment, if I avoided [sensitive issues], it was out of cultural respect for my peers,” Patrash said, referencing topics like the Tiananmen Square massacre, which she said was not widely known by her native Chinese classmates. “It’s like telling someone that Santa’s not real — you don’t want to be that person.”

While Patrash noted students are aware that they are in a different culture, she said NYUSH makes an effort to keep students from feeling isolated.

Bruno agreed that students in Abu Dhabi also recognize the cultural differences and said the students at NYU’s portal campuses are increasingly interacting with the cities in which they study. For example, NYUAD hosts Institute Programs, which include lectures, film series and exhibitions that are open to the public.

“When we first began our institute programming, we were very happy to have audiences of 75 people,” Bruno said. “Today, we’ve built a very dedicated audience base and are frequently hitting the 200 mark as we host over 70 public programs a year in Abu Dhabi.”

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, May 1 print edition. John Ambrioso is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]



  1. I think we should simply surrender to Islam since they do such a darn good job running their own host countries. Sarc/off.

      • Here’s a good quote, “We cannot save Muslims from themselves.” and another “How dare Israel protect her citizens from a people who worship death.”

        • Oh Ryan, it’s nice to know you are infatuated with me. You might like the following people too because they’re “racists” just like me; with racist being someone unafraid to say the truth.


          Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria on Islam

          “I am afraid that God has sent these men to lay waste the world”.


          Andre Servier on Islam

          “Islam was not a torch, as has been
          claimed, but an extinguisher. Conceived in a barbarous brain for the use of a barbarous people, it was – and it remains – incapable of adapting itself to civilization. Wherever it has dominated, it has broken the impulse towards progress and checked the evolution of society.”

          • No one is infatuated with you Arafat. You just consistently show yourself as a foaming at the mouth neo-fascist. Check yourself.

          • Yeah, me and all the other men I’ve listed above and below.
            We’re all neo-fascists. Lol!

          • Checkmate? Are you in 7th grade? You still are trying to frame this conversation about religion aren’t you? You really have a weird thing towards this fantasy you have of the ever impeding doom of “Islamo-fascism”. Get a grip.

          • Gee, Fanon, it’s so nice you care so much about the hundreds of thousands of people for whom it IS impeding doom. The two million Syrian refugees, the 500,000 Malian refugees, the three million Sudanese refugees.
            And just exactly what fantasy world is it that you live in? Would it be the “I am a waterboy for Islam fantasy world”?

          • Arafat, if it was just “culture” and “religion” that caused the conflicts in Syria, Malian, and Sudan, than things would be much easier than they are now. It’s not just bad ideas in people’s heads but structures that compel these people to act in ways that maximize their wealth and resources. Regardless, it appears that you are pretty much a charlatan when it comes down to actually knowing what is going on with these conflicts.

          • Fanon, doesn’t it get tiresome carrying water for your Muslim masters?
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to kill the peaceful Thai Buddhists in southern Thailand.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to kill of what remains of the Chaldeans in Iraq.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing the Sunnis and Shiites to kill off their Muslim Kurd brothers because they practice Islam differently.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to call for the genocide of the Hindus on Kashmir just as they call for the genocide of the Jews of Israel.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing the Muslims of Europe to call for Sharia law and domination of Europeans in every country in Europe.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to fight a slow reign of terror against the Russians and Chinese too.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to kill one million Shiites and Sunnis during the infighting in the Iran/Iraq War.
            I suppose it is also “culture and religion” causing Muslims to kill 3,000 Christians in Nigeria so far this year, sort of like it was “culture and religion” that caused Muslims to kill all the Christians and Animists who once lived in Sudan.
            Thanks for opening my eyes, boy water carrier, to the fact that it IS “culture and religion” causing all these (and many more) acts of inhumanity — and for pointing out that the guilty “culture and religion” is called Islam and its culture and religion of aggression, domination, hate and sadism.

          • Thanks for providing your own personal Mein Kampf on Muslims. Replace Muslims with Jews in your diatribe and you basically name the same sentiment of people you supposedly despise and are quite paranoid of, Nazi’s.

          • Poor, poor Fanon, did you torture little puppies as a child? For it is people like you, sadists that is, who share a natural affinity with Nazis, Islamists and their ilk.
            You dismiss all the inhumanity, cruelty and sadism practiced by Muslims against all people – in fact you make excuses for it – while blaming the Jews for anything and everything.
            You, you puppy killer, are a natural-born ally of today’s Nazis; but you are either blind to this fact or do not give a shet; and in either case you are today’s version of Mohammed, Hitler and all the others who killed in the name of a supremacist belief system.
            “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as they cut off Danile Pearl’s head.

          • You definitely have copy and pasted this argument before. Especially the last sentence, where you copy and paste the incredibly tragic death of Danile Pearl: “Allahu Akbar” they shouted out as they cut off Danile Pearl’s head.” Gotta get a little bit more creative than simply throwing baseless accusations against me for pointing out your seething hatred for “Islamists and their ilk” as something as a characteristic of most far-right dweebs. Regardless, I hope that sweet document that you have of fun facts that you pulled from Pamela Geller’s piss poor research on why she hates Muslims comes into better use of you understanding that you are some paranoid racist.

          • Fanon,
            Have fun enjoying the religion that provides incentives to destroy countries like Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan, and all the other Islamic cesspools found throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
            Meanwhile you (being a Jew-hater) do all you can to smear the only country in the aforementioned regions where democratic ideals, free thought, freedom of religion exist.
            Good Nazi, Fanon, I imagine you have the goose-step down pat.

  2. Ryan,

    You might enjoy the quotes from the following observers of Islam. Like me they are unafraid to speak the truth. Unlike you they are not crippled by their own inability to see what is reality.


    Alexis de Tocqueville on Islam

    “I studied the Koran a great
    deal…I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large
    there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of
    Muhammad. As far as I can see, it is the principal cause of the
    decadence so visible today in the Muslim world, and, though less absurd
    than the polytheism of old, its social and political tendencies are in
    my opinion infinitely more to be feared, and I therefore regard it as a
    form of decadence rather than a form of progress in relation to paganism


    Richard Dawkins on Islam

    “Islam deserves criticism on account of
    the logical consequences of its dogma, namely, that the murder of fellow
    human beings is to be rewarded with sensual pleasure in a hedonistic
    ‘Paradise’- a concept born in the fantasies of an Arab rebel some
    fourteen centuries ago. The religion of Mohammed is a dangerous system
    when the teachings and example of the ‘prophet’ are believed and

  3. Ryan,

    Since you are so critical of me does it follow then that you think the following men are also deserving of your bile?


    Winston Churchill On Islam

    “How dreadful are the curses which
    Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which
    is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful
    fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries.
    Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of
    commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of
    the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of
    its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact
    that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his
    absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must
    delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has
    ceased to be a great power among men.”


    John Quincy Adams on Islam

    “The precept of the Koran is,
    perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God.
    The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the
    victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and
    the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious
    necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by
    the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The
    commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.”


    John Wesley on Islam

    “Ever since the religion of Islam appeared
    in the world, the espousers of it…have been as wolves and tigers to
    all other nations, rending and tearing all that fell into their
    merciless paws, and grinding them
    with their iron teeth; that numberless cities are raised from the
    foundation, and only their name remaining; that many countries, which
    were once as the garden of God, are now a desolate wilderness; and that
    so many once numerous and powerful nations are vanished from the earth!
    Such was, and is at this day, the rage, the fury, the revenge, of these
    destroyers of human kind.”

  4. “Others, however, have been more suspicious of the arrangement. NYUNY english professor John Archer said the restrictions on freedom of expression at NYUAD are more significant than the promise of academic freedom.”

    Here’s one of those “others”:

    -5/29/14 ex-Mayor Bloomberg warned in his Harvard commencement speech: “Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species,” he told the crowd, adding that “the forces of repression [at universities] appear to be stronger now than they have been since the 1950s.” He noted that, in 2012, “96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama…”

    Democrats dominate our entire “education” system, from K-12……
    Top All-Time [political campaign] Donors, 1989-2012, public teachers’ unions:
    -The National Education Association gave $43,613,263: 71% to democrats, 5% to
    -The American Federation of Teachers gave $34,698,466: 86% to democrats, 0% to Republicans.

    Throughout our universities:
    -3/29/05 Washington Post: College faculties lean further to the left than even the most conspiratorial conservatives might have imagined. 72% are liberal, 15% conservative; 50% are democrats, 11% republican; at elite schools 87% are liberal, 13% conservative.

    - In 2008 76% of college professors’ campaign contributions went to elect democrats.

    -Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility — and blind them to the hostile climate they’ve created for non-liberals; democrat psychology
    professors outnumber Republican 12 to 1.

    -80% of psychology professors are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by nearly 12 to 1.

    -… “In some areas it [liberal dominance of universities] is so extreme that it amounts to virtual exclusion of any but left-of-center faculty members.”

    5/20/12 L. A. Times: “At the U. of Cal. at Berkeley the ratio of Democrats to Republicans even in the hard sciences had grown to 10 to 1 in 2004. In the humanities and social sciences the ratios were 17 to 1 and 21 to 1, respectively.

    -Not one conservative spoke at any Ivy League commencement event in 2013.
    -In 2012 the US News and World Report 100 top universities gave 96% of their political contributions to Obama.


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