After 11 years of observation, the researchers running Saadiyat Island’s premier social experiment released a statement to a less-than-entirely-resilient public. To the surprise of no one with even the slightest familiarity with experimental apparatus, the scientists behind the project admitted that they have literally no idea what they’re doing.
“Who knew confining ego-inflated youth from around the world on a desert island ruled by a capricious cabal of feline overlords would be so complicated to manage?!” exclaimed Watdaheliza Globileedur, lead principal investigator of the experiment. “We’re still clueless how this got past the IRB.”
With this announcement, the source of NYU Abu Dhabi’s magic — the untranslatability of our experiences here to those outside the bubble — has come fully into view. No matter how intense the vision and intentionality, doing something that’s never been done before makes improvisation the primary form of problem solving.
Considering their vitriolic reaction to most all announcements of any kind, the student body was surprisingly nonplussed with the news.
“We’ve had our suspicions for a while,” said suitemates Pliez Spil and Dat Ti, both Class of 2022, who spent two whole hours validating the living crap out of each other last night. “Not that this place is just a social experiment — that’s a well established fact
. It’s the part where everything is just made up as we go. We got a 10-meter statue of toilet paper caught in a tornado before we got Spanish language classes. What more evidence do you need?”
“It’s really quite a compelling explanation,” added Dean of Students Kale Parsley. “It genuinely feels like half the stuff landing on my desk was concocted just to see what my reaction would be. It’s strangely comforting to know that chaos isn’t a bug, but a feature.”
That said, the ad-hoc nature of NYUAD’s operation comes with its shortcomings. For every 6×6 grid of palm trees surrounded by sky bridges and filled with fake birds, there’s also persistent injustices no community survey is fit to solve. And then, of course, there’s the Student Finance email alias. Structural flaws and damaging experiences — much like your cringy ex — are seemingly impossible to avoid on campus.
Indeed, bribing many hundreds of students from divergent geographic and social backgrounds to live side-by-side despite their incompatible or experience invalidating worldviews has yielded some … unresolved conflicts.
When asked to report their findings on this aspect of community behavior, the research team somehow grew even more puzzled.
“Honestly we’re just as stuck as y’all are,” said Globileedur. “As a general rule though, don’t make claims that monopolize truth over the lived experiences of others, assume that whatever you write online will be interpreted in the most egregious and bias-affirming way possible and consider the possibility of other catharsis methods beyond assholery.”
“Oh, and don’t look to even awkwardly earnest satire for guidance on your approach to public discourse. It’s a recipe for disaster,” he added.
When asked if the researchers had conclusive findings on any other aspects of NYUAD, Globileedur and their team whispered unintelligibly to each other before hurriedly scrawling on a nearby sticky note: “AD summers too hot.”
Much like the final paper you probably should be writing right now, those orchestrating this absurd fever-dream of a school clearly haven’t the foggiest idea where any of this is going. Ultimately, the crazed scientists pulling the strings at NYUAD seem to just be making it up as they go along.
In this key regard, they are not unlike the community they attempt to study.
“Of course I have no idea what I’m doing,” explained Wyar Notstranjurz, Class of 2021. “I’ve spent the last four years of my life listening to FoS lectures, learning to fall in love and reading Mariët’s emails — being in a constant state of confusion and uncertainty is part of the charm.”
NYUAD is many things to many people. More to the point: it’s many things to every person. As the institution and the community it stewards confront challenges both repressed and novel, how we choose to grow will define the future of this place.
“Learning is the byproduct of humility and failure,” said Notstranjurz. “I may have no idea what I’m doing, but I know exactly how I’m doing it: the best that I possibly can right now, but not yet as well as I know I eventually will. NYUAD is an obscene, delicate and marvelously foolish mess. Should this university practice the lifelong learning it endeavors to instill, there may be hope for us yet.”
Ian Hoyt is a Satire Columnist. Email him at email@example.com.