Illustration by Shenuka Corea
As NYU Abu Dhabi moves to graduate its first class raised entirely on its Saadiyat Island campus, it is time for us to think about what it means to be an NYUAD graduate.
We have shared so much in these past four years — perhaps more than previous classes, because we made this island our home together and because we left it so rarely. We have been accountable to one another day in and day out for four years, with every action scrutinized, every expression visible. This accountability will soon be gone, and a lot of us look forward to that breather. Without anyone watching over this community, though, we must ask: what will it mean to do good by our alma mater?
We posit that the duties of both an NYUAD student and alumnus are the same. For NYUAD to be the best university it can be, its community must constantly be critical. It is the duty of NYUAD students to constantly expose the steel of Saadiyat to fire, demanding improvements to things like athletic inclusion, academic integrity and sexual harassment prevention because only then will our institution be strong. To go easy on ourselves as NYUAD students is to let outsiders, like those on The Square, tell us where we have strayed, and it is to let ignorance amplify the university’s failings.
For the writers of The Gazelle, it is easy to fulfill this commitment. The Gazelle’s readership has expanded to include several thousands, around half of whom do not live in the UAE. Many see NYUAD’s problems through our pages, and this puts pressure on our community to improve and on The Gazelle to report in a manner that both identifies the potential and acknowledges the growth as it takes place.
The other essential duty of both an NYUAD student and alumnus is, however, much more difficult than being critical. It may be harder even in the capacity of a writer for a student newspaper. That duty is to be supportive.
As the student body on Saadiyat continues to expand and its veterans leave, it is incumbent upon all of us to care about each others’ futures.
As a small, young university, we cannot afford for you to not refer a classmate for a job because you dislike their girlfriend. We cannot afford for you to ignore someone’s plea for a couch in London when their flight gets cancelled because you don’t know them personally. And we cannot afford for you to stand by when you see your roommate in dire emotional straits just because you are too busy finishing a paper.
As a publication, we have learned that we cannot be too quick to criticize or jump to conclusions in the interest of pushing for progress. From our mistakes we have learned the importance of inviting all of the parties involved to the table for a discussion, and the importance of attempts at mutual understanding before moving on to criticism.
By no means is NYUAD an established university. To think it is to be as myopic as to think that selfish pettiness, the kind that keeps us from helping our peers, will not sabotage NYUAD’s potential and the value of our degrees.
NYUAD has already burned through nearly as many alumni relations directors as there have been graduating classes, and it continues to search for a formula that will work for a graduate network as small and as dispersed as ours. It is not easy to unite a community that gathers from all over the world and then, just as quickly, scatters to the four corners of the earth. We have so many strengths and shared experiences that set us up to have positive impact in this global community. However, unlike our host campus, we do not have a long-standing alumni network of people with those shared experiences to lean on. We have staff members trying to foster these developments, but this process takes time, and staff members may not fully understand the unique experience, as we like to think of it, of being an NYUAD student.
That is all the more reason why we, as both students and former students of NYUAD, need to make a commitment to our collective future. We need to commit to not only be critical, but also be kind. As our paths diverge this May, so will the priorities and standards we strive to hold ourselves to. As The Gazelle’s management graduates, we will become teachers, researchers and paralegals as far flung as Lisbon and Kuala Lumpur. If you need advice, a hug, a chat or a place to stay, let us know. If you want to continue debating the identity and course of the university we will always call ours, we will welcome that, too. After leaving The Gazelle, we will undoubtedly miss the pizza-munching, late-night-panicking community that has kept us honest. We will never make up for the sleep we’ve lost, and we will never regret that loss.
Conscious and appreciative, though not yet fully, of how formative the Saadiyat years have been to us, we offer our insights with fond nostalgia. As soon-to-be alumni and not-yet-ready to-leave inhabitants of The Gazelle’s production room, we call on our peers to play a part in shaping NYUAD’s identity beyond the walls of this institution. We’ll see you there.
Tom Klein, Karolina Wilczynska and Hannah Taylor are outgoing management team. Email them at [email protected]