Graphic by Mariko Kuroda/The Gazelle

Facebook: Unproductive Platform for Student Debate

Global leaders are seldom occupied with the mundane distractions of the everyday world. Nay, global leaders are a class that only occupies itself with ...

Oct 5, 2013

Graphic by Mariko Kuroda/The Gazelle
Global leaders are seldom occupied with the mundane distractions of the everyday world. Nay, global leaders are a class that only occupies itself with solving the problems of the world and analyzing issues from various perspectives. It is with this zeal that the students of NYU Abu Dhabi took to their keyboards, arguing over the university’s celebration of World Vegetarian Day on Oct. 1, which involved both Sama and the Downtown Campus serving only vegetarian food for lunch.
Now, you may think that this is a trivial issue, and you may be right, but that does not stop the global leaders of NYUAD from discussing it on the most ineffective of forums: Facebook. Discussing such matters on Facebook does not help to enhance the discourse. In fact, it limits it. On Facebook, you are not obliged to listen to other people and you cannot judge their tone or intention because everybody is communicating from behind their computer screens. The focus, unfortunately, is on whoever can type faster and harvest more likes.
I agree with those who say that it is unfair to limit the dishes to just vegetarian dishes, even if it is for one day or one lunch. Some of those who backed the decision to remove meat from the menu for World Vegetarian Day tried to distort the issue by claiming that those who eat meat should learn to compromise and recognize the virtues of vegetarianism. That is wonderful rhetoric, but it still does not justify limiting lunch to just vegetarian dishes; compromise is not akin to giving in to the other side completely. Others tried to argue that all views or preferences couldn’t possibly be accommodated, and so it is legitimate to curtail certain choices. That is certainly true but, once again, does not mean that we should take away some choices because we cannot accommodate all. That would not solve the problem, but rather aggravate it. Last time I checked, everybody was very happy with the choices of meat offered in the Sama Dining Hall; every reasonable student realizes that this selection does not include pork simply because it is not halal, and the UAE is a Muslim country.
In principle, limiting dishes to celebrate something that only a certain segment of the university believes in is unfair; in the same way, having a Meat Lover’s day would be unfair. But I also disagree with the way people voiced their opinion. It is very important to understand that there are formal channels of communication available to deal with exactly these sorts of issues. If someone has a problem with something about the university, they can refer to a relevant committee or a person about that issue. In this case, it would be the Dining Committee. That way, your views would be recognized by people who can actually resolve the matter, rather than by people who will just like your comment.
This is, after all, a community. There will be differences: some people will enjoy meat, others won’t. But that does not entitle anyone to bicker and vent about these things. Pettiness just makes everyone question the intentions of whoever decides to declare their frustration. Don’t get me wrong: dissent is important — even necessary. Everybody should be allowed to voice his or her opinions. It is only through recognizing and scrutinizing different views that we can reach a consensus. But there are ways by which your dissent could be voiced more efficiently.
What does this event mean for NYUAD as a whole? It could mean many things and nothing at all. While it would be easy to say that NYUAD needs to do more to create an atmosphere for greater understanding of the views of others, it would also be easy to see that this is one isolated event. As far as I am concerned, the community at NYUAD is comprised of intelligent individuals who are more than willing to listen to complaints. I hope that more people recognize this and complain, but in the best manner possible.
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