Letter to the Editor: “Confronting the Contradiction of NYU Abu Dhabi”


Echo Chen

(Illustration by Echo Chen)

John Beckman and Kate Chandler

Fourteen Rhodes Scholars, eight Fulbright Scholars, six Schwarzman Scholars, four Yenching Scholars, three Erasmus Mundus Scholars, one Luce Scholar and one Truman Fellow. An acceptance rate of 4%. An average yield of 82%. A graduation rate of 90%. A program of financial aid that has allowed some of the brightest young minds to receive a college education who might never have had opportunities to reach their full potential at home, meeting the needs of a student body that would — remarkably — be deemed roughly 50% Pell-eligible. The hiring of 300 faculty whose ranks include recipients of awards and honors including election to the National Academy of Sciences, the Radcliffe Fellowship, the Moore Prize in Fiction, the Hindu Prize, and the Rhodes Trust Inspirational Educator Award. Over 3,500 internationally recognized academic papers, articles, books produced to date and more than 250 creative works created and directed. Graduates who have gone on to further study at Oxford, Harvard Law, Yale, Stanford, McGill, Juilliard and Cambridge; employment at Amazon, Google, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, the US Department of State and SpaceX; and numerous non-profit and entrepreneurial pursuits. 

In 10 years, this is just some of what NYU Abu Dhabi has accomplished. In a mere decade, it has compiled a record of student achievement, student support and scholarship that rivals universities many times its size and its age.  

Yet, the Washington Square News acknowledges and appreciates none of this. Invested in a storyline that misses the achievements and perpetuates misrepresentations, the WSN is unable to see what has been accomplished, incapable of hearing students and faculty who readily and repeatedly say that they have the freedom to discuss diverse thoughts and ideas and that they do so every day, and is not able to understand that a country’s immigration decisions cannot be the basis for judging academic freedom.   

Instead, Washington Square News ignores what NYU Abu Dhabi is today and what it has proven: that global higher education works; that a US-style liberal arts education can thrive in different societies; that a bold step like this means more freedom of thought, not less; and that an incredibly diverse group of the most talented young people in the world — many of whom might otherwise never had had the opportunity — have now received an education which has prepared them for leadership roles in a complex and highly globalized 21st century. NYU Abu Dhabi is a success that NYU can and should be proud of.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, February. 24, 2020 print edition. Email John Beckman and Kate Chandler at [email protected]