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].