After more than two weeks, President Andrew Hamilton has finally responded to the concerns of members of the NYU community around the visa denials of two NYU professors into the United Arab Emirates. In his letter, addressed to the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, Hamilton stated that the visa denials were troubling. Nonetheless, in the end of the letter, Hamilton tried to justify the university’s lack of response to the visa denials by stating that NYU can only take a public stance when broad policies were implemented, and this particular instance only affected two individuals. However, more than two individuals have already been affected. NYU has been appealing the decisions made by the UAE government behind the scenes, but its lack of transparency on the subject and Hamilton’s evasive response point to a larger problem of miscommunication at the university.
Another example of NYU’s failure to publicize its decisions came when a white nationalist group booked a room at the Kimmel Center for University Life. After posters promoting a white nationalist group, Identity Evropa, were found in the building on Sept. 27, students on campus reacted with disdain. At an emergency rally following this event, two students were heckled by an individual in blackface. The university only reacted to one of these many issues. Without announcing anything to the NYU community, the university changed its room booking policies so that only NYU-related personnel can utilize the amenities. This quick reaction is positive and shows that the university is paying attention to threats to the student body, so why was it not publicized to students? Although this slight policy change is a good preventative measure, NYU’s reaction to the presence of white supremacist propaganda on campus has been far from flawless.
Hamilton’s letter to MEIS should have been addressed to the student body instead of just a single department. NYU’s appeals against faculty visa denials to the UAE government should be made public as well, so we can know exactly what the university is and isn’t doing. It is hard to understand this lack of transparency because it leads to a negative perception of NYU’s reactions to challenges. How are we supposed to feel safe when we don’t know who is protecting us? Don’t hide behind private letters and subtle policy shifts. Be honest and be clear.
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