Letter from the Editors: Response to WSN

Our editors respond to the recent article on Washington Square News about academic freedom here at NYUAD.

Oct 08, 2017

megans Illustration by Megan Eloise

As the editors of The Gazelle, we are familiar with critiques of NYU Abu Dhabi. Washington Square News’ latest article on our alleged lack of academic freedom, therefore, did not surpise us in its criticism of our institution and community. What we were taken aback by was the fact that WSN’s argument rests solely on experiences from those outside of our community and is primarily substantiated with new information only in their citation of Professor of Journalism at NYU New York Mohamad Bazzi’s op-ed in the New York Times, N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi: A Sectarian Bargain. No NYUAD students’ or professors’ narratives were included in the WSN article, even though representing the existing spectrum of opinions on an issue is a basic tenet of journalism. It was an omission that further resembled a U.S. American neoconservative mentality – an unrealistic assertion that the U.S. can change the policies of other countries at the drop of a hat, all masked in a thin veneer of liberal values.

Contextualizing Bazzi’s visa denial, NYUAD is not exceptional in that its community members are subject to laws regulating immigration in the country they are travelling to. In fact, the United States is no stranger to denying visas. NYU has issued statements about the potential of students and faculty being affected by President Trump’s travel bans and an Iranian NYU PhD student who was detained temporarily in JFK airport in January.

Secondly, Bazzi’s recent op-ed in the New York Times, N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi: A Sectarian Bargain unfairly portrays NYUAD as complicit in denying visa applications on the basis of sectarian identity. This allegation is suspicious, firstly because there are several Shiite students and Jewish faculty at NYUAD and secondly, because Bazzi fails to mention the fact that he has recently published opinion articles that are critical of the UAE and its allies, something he should have known could lead to a visa denial.

Moving to the current status of NYUAD, as an editorial board, we acknowledge problems do exist and have existed on our campus. Indeed, even recently we have felt students are more concerned than in the past on a variety of fronts, including what defines academic freedom. However, the WSN article fails to contact members of the NYUAD community actually having these discussions on campus. In effect, in omitting NYUAD student’s feelings, the article discounts the nature of such conversations at NYUAD. Students here are concerned with internet accessibility. Students do express dissatisfaction over the legacy of labor abuses on campus. Students do lament how our privacy rights are protected at our institution. Despite these dilemmas, we push forward. We have students write OpEd’s which criticize policy. We push for administrative reforms to amend past failures. We assemble townhalls to debate university policy where attendance reaches roughly 15 percent of the NYUAD undergraduate population. NYUAD does all this because, for all the issues that may arise on our campus, we too do ascribe to the ideas of liberal discourse within our communities and classrooms. The diversity of opinions at NYUAD, lent in part by its highly international demographics, is why many chose to attend this NYU portal campus, as opposed to the one in New York.

We are proud to contribute to inclusive discourse across the GNU. When studying in New York, NYUAD students bring in perspectives that only international students studying in the Middle East can. We’re thrilled to share our experiences and insights with the larger NYU community and to learn from our peers across NYU’s global sites. We know that we have something of value to add to the conversation about NYU’s future and mission, and that we deserve a say in conversations about NYU’s identity.

Hopefully, the next time NYUAD is “plagued” by any problem and needs saving, those in need will be contacted for opinion.

Thomas Klein and Kristina Stanković are Editors-in-chief. Email them at [email protected]

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