F1 Vibes

Graphic by Anastasiia Zubareva

F1 Student Participants Sanctioned by University

The sudden cancellation by students reflected badly on the university, but may have stemmed from more than just bad work ethic.

Dec 11, 2016

At the end of November, over a third of committed students, mostly freshman, contacted the Vibes staffing company to inform them that they would not be working at this year’s F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, as of two days prior to the event.
The NYU Abu Dhabi Career Development Center, concerned about how the cancellations might reflect on NYUAD students’ work ethic, threatened that if students did not meet their Vibes commitments they would be banned from CareerNet for six months. Following recent inquiries into work conditions by the CDC, students who did not work at this year’s F1 race have since had their CareerNet ban reduced to one month, as instituted on Dec. 8.
According to Associate Director of the CDC Dana Downey, the recent dispute with the Vibes company was unprecedented in scope. Downey stated, “[of the] 62 students total [who] committed, 24 reportedly canceled as of 2 days prior to the event.”
NYUAD students have worked as staffers at the F1 weekend in previous years. Vibes and Wow Events have historically advertised on NYUAD’s CareerNet portal.
In conversations with The Gazelle, those who worked more specialized roles like modeling or hosting the VIP sections cited relatively positive working conditions. Many of those who worked these more specialized positions with both Wow and Vibes in the past also found Vibes to be a more professional and organized staffing company.
This year, Vibes organized the general customer service staff at F1 and advertised these jobs on CareerNet early in the fall semester to NYUAD students. They conducted interviews for the positions on campus in early October.
By November, after tens of students signed up, a few students had already decided they were not interested in working at the event and missed the mandatory training day. However, most students did attend training day and almost uniformly reported negative experiences to The Gazelle.
Immediately following training day, the aforementioned students canceled on their commitment. The student cancellations were followed by an email from the heads of the CDC and Dean of Students Kyle Farley, strongly encouraging students to uphold their commitments to Vibes. The email outlined that the mass student cancellation might endanger the school’s future partnership with the Vibes company. It further referenced Vibes putting pressure on university administration in New York and Abu Dhabi in addition to government partners, threatening that NYUAD students reneging en masse reflected very negatively on their work ethic. Some students took the last CDC email as a strong incentive to work.
During the F1 weekend, tens of NYUAD students staffed the race with Vibes and many who reported harsh treatment during the training sessions reported more positive treatment during the event itself.
Nevertheless, by Nov. 30, many students who did not work were still upset and faced a six-month CareerNet ban as per CDC policy.
At the Nov. 30 meeting held by the CDC to discuss student involvement with Vibes, many voiced concerns surrounding the treatment of students during training. According to several attendees, the training day started early in the morning and lasted for over ten hours. The breakfast and lunch promised and provided to students ultimately consisted of a croissant, water and a package of cookies. Several students further reported general mistreatment and race-based discrimination in conversation with the CDC and The Gazelle.
Students further discussed the revocation of their CareerNet accounts in the face of issues with the Vibes company itself.
Helping to represent students at the CDC meeting, Student Government Senior Class Representative Yi Yi Yeap joined the Nov. 30 discussion. Describing the meeting, Yeap said, “I think the biggest takeaway was just that there was such a lack of communication happening between all the parties involved, whether it was the company that was hiring students, CDC or the students themselves, and that this could have all been fixed if only communication channels had been established.”
Downey echoed Yeap’s takeaways regarding the importance of student communication with the CDC in the future. She cited the importance of students communicating with the CDC during possible employer ethics violations. There is a way companies must legally act in the UAE and there is a way companies should ethically act when working with NYUAD students, Downey elaborated. The CDC cannot advocate for students if they do not let them know that there is a problem.
Downey is planning to meet with representatives from the Vibes company soon to go over the various issues raised by students surrounding workplace treatment. The university will continue its partnership with Vibes as part of a one-year trial period for making reforms. A decision on whether or not the university will continue to work with Vibes will be made after the F1 race next year.
Tom Klein is News Editor. Email him at feedback@thegazelle.org.
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