In March 2015, NYU professor Andrew Ross was barred from boarding a flight to Abu Dhabi based on undisclosed “security reasons.” Now, Ross is calling for greater transparency from the university in what it is doing to get this ban lifted.
Ross teaches at NYU’s Manhattan campus, specializing in labor issues in the department of social and cultural analysis, and was conducting research on human rights violations in Abu Dhabi at the time of his travel bar.
The American Association of University Professors has expressed concerns over the denial of entry to Ross, saying it is a potential violation of the academic freedom they strive to achieve. NYU is being urged by Ross and the AAUP to not only put in greater effort to lift the ban, but to make NYU’s agreement with the emirati authorities
“The AAUP stands for transparency in universities’ affairs, especially when it comes to issues regarding academic freedom, yet we are repeatedly told that ‘transparency’ is not part of Abu Dhabi ‘culture,’” Ross said. “NYU students and faculty have a right to know what agreements the administration enters into in our name, especially ones that have the potential to tarnish the university’s name.”
The AAUP’s original statement on academic freedom, published in 1940,
addresses a desire for a free search for truth.
“Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole,” the AAUP statement reads. “The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.”
But NYU spokesman John Beckman explained the technical restrictions of releasing this document for public viewing.
“The agreement between NYU and the government of Abu Dhabi, forming NYU Abu Dhabi, contains confidential operating details and is therefore not a public document,” Beckman said. “In that way it’s similar to any standard business contract. But key elements of it are public, including the commitment to the 1940 AAUP definition of academic freedom.”
Since the incident occurred, NYU has provided little information about how to remedy the delicate situation abroad. In the past, NYU has made clear that the Emirate government works with visa and immigration policy and that it is not the responsibility of the university to get the ban lifted.
In a letter to the AAUP on Sept. 1, NYU Provost David McLaughlin reiterates that NYU is in touch with the appropriate authorities and is doing the best that it can to get Ross’ ban revoked.
“NYU believes strongly in the principle of mobility for scholars in pursuing their research, participating in academic events and educating students,” the letter reads. “In the aftermath of Professor Ross being denied entry to the United Arab Emirates, the University expressed this sentiment publicly.”
Tisch junior Joanie Educate questioned how much authority NYU has over academic freedom in the UAE.
“The Emirati authorities had every right to deny people entrance to the county,” Educate said. “But the question I have is at what point does an American university on foreign soil have their own rights to academic freedom and what rights fall in the hands of the nation’s government?”
Steinhardt sophomore Emma Murray said she felt uneasy about NYU’s handling of the situation.
“You would like to see the school taking more action against problems like this so that students won’t be worried about these issues when they study abroad,” Murray said.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 28 print version. Email Kati Garrity at [email protected]