Show Solidarity — Divest NYUAD

WSN Editorial Board

Last Thursday, the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute sent NYU President Andrew Hamilton a letter effectively cutting ties with NYU Abu Dhabi, one of NYU’s three degree-granting campuses. Additionally, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study encouraged its faculty not to teach at the campus. These actions come in the wake of controversy at NYUAD regarding an alleged lack of academic and religious freedom. Not only are these steps beneficial for the Journalism Institute and Gallatin, but they are an excellent step forward for the university as a whole. It is time that all NYU schools divest from NYUAD.

When NYUAD was announced in 2007, then-President John Sexton stated that the campus would adhere to NYU’s values of diversity, equity and inclusion. This always seemed to be a lofty goal, as the United Arab Emirates’  record on human rights is poor. For example, the country ranks 119 out of 180 countries in freedom of the press, people who participate in same-sex relationships can be sent to jail for 14 years and Abu Dhabi is known for arresting individuals who have criticized the government. Nevertheless, NYUAD was confident that it could adhere to the home campus’s values, even issuing labor protections. These statements became empty promises when the campus faced controversy due to the inhumane conditions construction workers at the campus faced. While the university apologized for the working conditions, this publication reported last month that multiple NYUAD students and teachers have faced discrimination from the UAE government due to religious beliefs and academic work. Even though such discrimination violates NYU’s commitment to religious and academic freedom, the university has seemingly decided to look the other way, stating that what the UAE government does is out of NYU’s control.

In retrospect, it should not come as a surprise that these issues would arise at NYUAD. The country is decades behind the United States in terms of human rights. While the attempt to create a pillar of higher education in the nation is admirable, it is not working. It is time that the NYU administration accept this and divest from Abu Dhabi. If not, the university can no longer advertise itself as a place of diversity, equity and inclusion.

While the recent move by the Journalism Institute and Gallatin to distance themselves from NYUAD likely will not change any of the UAE’s laws, it puts pressure on the rest of NYU to take action. As stated, NYU promised that the Abu Dhabi campus would not compromise any of our values. Yet, this is exactly what has happened since the campus’s opening. Projecting the blame onto the UAE government simply is not good enough. By continuing to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s economy, we are condoning their inhumane actions. The values this university preaches should not change based on the region of a specific campus.  The rest of NYU must divest from the Abu Dhabi campus if Abu Dhabi continues to violate the university’s principles.


A version of this appeared in the Monday, Nov. 6 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected].



  1. You speak as if you stand on some high pedestal. By your arguments NYU should probably close down as it’s supporting USA which is probably one of the most horrible countries in the world, if you wanna talk about human rights, why is USA the ONLY United Nations member not to ratify the convention of the rights of the child? Lots of NYU Abu Dhabi students and professors were/are very afraid of not being able to study away in the New York campus with Trumps immigration bans (and even before them being a Muslim wasn’t exactly beneficial to getting a student visa to the US I may tell you… whether or not you are a student at an NYU portal campus or not), and for specifics my ex-girlfriend who studies at the NYU Shanghai campus got rejected for student visa for the USA twice and therefore couldn’t study away in New York, at least one of the times was only because she was dating an American from the NY campus + her nationality. And then you could also talk about the millions of other super shady crazy stuff the USA does but a 100 page essay would be too short for that. Why aren’t there any huge outcries about this?

    Not saying that this makes the UAE any better, just that it makes you a huge hypocrit.

  2. As a student at the controversial campus of NYU Abu Dhabi, this post both resonate and deeply saddens me. It resonate in the sense that as students, our voices, beliefs and ideals cannot change or even influence the law of a country I study in. Choosing to come to NYUAD, I cherish the opportunity it avails me to study with students, faculty and academics of all sorts of backgrounds. With this however, I also chose to study in a country with laws that may not align with my personal ideals. Further being unable to influence and change this political and social reality, my choice have very much contributed to UAE maybe even at the cost of realize my ideals.

    Despite this aforementioned reality, I am extremely saddened by the unilateral declaration, as well as the advocation advanced by your piece to cut ties and affiliations with NYUAD. Being a liberal student, if I have the right to say so for taking the risk to study in a international and diverse university as opposed to studying in a local university, this post presents almost a complete disregard of the voices of students of NYUAD. Whilst the political and social climates of the country in many aspects are not aligned with the liberal identities that NYU prides itself with, the experiences of students and faculties, as well as the intellectual exchanges of those ideals are deeply fostered within the NYUAD community.

    With the continued divestment of NYUAD from bodies of NYU, the academic careers of NYUAD students will be placed in a place of extreme uncertainty. My point is, if WSN and the author are advocating for actions that will detrimentally jeopardize the rights of a group of student, at least allow that group of students to also have a voice in this narrative as a reflection of the liberal spirits of NYU.

  3. Is the following a fair summary of the argument posited by this editorial?
    Where a state’s policies are inconsistent with an institution’s values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, that institution should sever ties with all institutions within that state.

  4. Should NYU also divest from NYU Shanghai? China’s policies on academic freedom are also restrictive, and free expression is not legal. Should NYU divest from NYU Tel Aviv because of Israel’s problematic human rights record? Or divest from NYU Ghana because of ongoing issues of slavery and child labor?

    Discussing the role of NYU in the UAE is important. Some UAE laws do go against NYU’s spirit of diversity and inclusion, but as John White commented, NYUAD itself is a haven of liberal ideals. The way people can behave and express themselves on campus is very different from the norms in the rest of the country. However, we can do more, and NYUAD students and faculty are always working to find ways to make a positive impact and preserve these ideals within this unique context.

    Can’t we have this important discussion without extreme rhetoric and lambasting?

  5. Have you ever left the United States? The whole point of cultural diversity, is to understand the history and culture of those countries which are foreign to us. While the UAE might not be the top 1 in women’s rights or press freedom, you need to dig deeper and understand why that is before encouraging NYU affiliates from abandoning the Abu Dhabi campus. If anything, this is an even larger reason as to Why NYUAD HAS to Remain stronger than ever, to promote these so-called democratic values you so lovingly cherish and claim the United States lives by.

  6. Emil Goldsmith Olesen, you’re the one high on your pedestal here. Please explain: if America is such an horrible country violating human rights all the time, then why are the Arabs and Chinese so desperate to come in the first place? Why did your girlfriend apply TWICE instead of staying in Shanghai? Why don’t your Arab professors stay in Arab countries? Americans have made it clear we don’t want them here. Respect our laws; that includes immigration bans.

    Furthermore, your suggested we shut down the U.S.A branch of NYU is laughable. This is an AMERICAN university you simpleton. It stands for NEW YORK university. It was founded in 1831 by Albert Gallatin in the city of New York. NYU Abu Dhabi was just made up in 2010. They’re 187 years behind us in founding, and the values there are 1400 years behind the West. Maybe you should learn some history.

    Please read this article about Abu Dhabi, it is very telling what the student life is like there on the artificial Arab campus

  7. It’s amazing to me how in the same paragraphs someone can say the USA is “one of the most horrible countries in the world” then why cry and whine and moan that we won’t let them in! Ask yourself: Why would Americans want MORE Chinese and Muslims here? We have more than enough!

  8. The Abu-Dhabi defenders should read this article in the Times before proclaiming how “liberal” it is:

    Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor, is one of at least two N.Y.U. faculty members whose visas have been rejected this year by the United Arab Emirates, which have given no reason for the denial. But Professor Bazzi, who was born in Lebanon, and Arang Keshavarzian, a professor of Middle Eastern politics whose visa application was also denied, believe it may be in part because they are Shiite Muslims, an affiliation they were asked to disclose on their applications.

    This is a Muslim country that rejects other Muslims for being a different kind of Muslim then they are. Yes, such a liberal campus.

  9. The US also rejects visa applications? The Department of Homeland Security does not provide the reason for rejection, why do you ask the UAE to do the same? Does that reflect badly on the NYU New York Campus and have you done something that would prevent this?

  10. I am an editor from NYU Shanghai’s independent student publication On Century Avenue. We just published an op-ed editorial, with more thorough investigations, in response to your opinion piece, and at the same time tried to shed some light on the status quo back in China. We, from the third campus of NYU Global Network, have been critically looking at academic freedom, global mobility, and other related issues around NYU campuses for long. And we seek for a more open conversation and are dedicated to bringing different voices to the whole NYU community.

  11. @Mary
    kindly, Bazzi has no clue what he is talking about. There are other Shiite Muslims who were able to enter the country, so it’s absolutely not religious persecution. Plus, Bazzi himself taught a J-Term there once.
    NYU is a huge, international community, and there have been several occasions both students and professors (of differing religions and cultures) were denied visas, to NYU NY, NYU AD as well as NYU SH. It’s just no one has thrown such a hissyfit like Bazzi so far. They just accepted that this is how countries, borders, and visas work.
    Besides, none of the countries where the main NYU campuses are located have a pitch perfect human rights record. UAE doesn’t. China doesn’t. And the US… Are you kidding me? Think about Trump’s Muslim ban and his overall attitude towards immigration issues. Thinking that the US has no problems in this regard betrays a deep misunderstanding and stupidity about what is going on in your country.
    So shame on you, shame on Bazzi, and most importantly shame on the Carter Institute. For God’s sake, they are journalists. They should now better than making such a baseless snap judgement before properly assessing it.

  12. It is unfortunate that NYU Abu Dhabi students couldn’t respond directly to this article on WSN due to its editorial policy of having only one response per article.

    If you would like to read more about NYUAD and its mission from the perspective of one of many of its students, I encourage you to click the following link to be redirected to The Gazelle, NYUAD’s weekly student publication:


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