Illustration by Cadence Cheah.

The NYUAD Climate Survey Report, Explained

The data suggests that large percentages of students, faculty and staff feel positively about NYUAD but that climate is less hospitable for community members of marginalized identities, particularly for People of Determination and Black participants.

Nov 28, 2021

The NYU Abu Dhabi Campus Climate Assessment Report is an exploration of inclusion, diversity, belonging and equity as well as justice and antiracism at NYUAD. The report follows a pledge by Vice Chancellor Westermann to take action to make NYUAD a more inclusive institution, one which combats racism that undermines our community values and committed to specific actions to do so. To fulfill the pledge, NYUAD contracted the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education at the University of Maryland, also known as CDIHE.
The CDHIE utilized a mixed-methods approach and the study consists of two parts: Firstly, it involved a review of listening sessions conducted by NYUAD leadership, which included a preliminary development of the demographic reporting system in collaboration with Senior Director of Inclusion and Equity, Fatiah Touray, and the Office of Inclusion and Equity. The second part consisted of survey development, data collection, analyses and report writing. The process of inquiry was inductive, and all findings reported are convergent with other data sources. Participants included students across all years, staff and admin faculty and the final report is a culmination of a 10-month long external review of the climate at NYUAD. In a Campus Climate Survey Town Hall held on Oct. 27, where Dr. Roger Worthington from the CDIHE led a presentation alongside Director Touray which shared the findings of the report.
Given that the report is highly detailed, this piece hopes to highlight important facts that came to light, and which are pivotal when designing steps to create a more inclusive community on campus.
The primary variable interest in the survey was Attachment and Belonging to NYUAD. The data suggests that large percentages of students, faculty and staff feel positively about NYUAD, in terms of interpersonal connections and choice to study or work at NYUAD. However, People of Determination rated their attachment and belonging lower than participants with no known disabilities. This was also true of the Personal Experiences of Climate, where individuals evaluated whether they would characterize the climate at NYUAD as supportive, fair, welcoming, respectful etc. Similarly for the variable Climate and Discourse of Cultural Humility, participants identifying as Black and People of Determination had lower ratings.
When looking at Micro-aggressions and Micro-affirmations, the former was more commonly reported among students than faculty and staff, among Black participants (than other racial-ethnic groups) and among People of Determination (than those with no known disabilities). Interestingly, women reported micro-invalidations more often and men reported micro-assaults more often. On the other hand, micro-affirmations were generally rated near the midpoint of the scale by all groups. A variable where students, across the group, were more positive was NYUAD’s commitment to IDBE, Social Justice and Antiracism. However, even here, participants identifying as Black, women and people of determination were more skeptical than corresponding identity group participants.
For the variable NYUAD Works to Improve Issues of IDBE, community members across the board were most pessimistic in their rating of the university’s commitment to diversity in terms of political views. The corresponding ratings for racial/ethnic identity, religious or spiritual beliefs and disability issues were highest.
Data also revealed that 31.4 percent of participants reported that their experiences were not free of harassment, bullying and/or intimidation which is a high number, especially in peer-to-peer interactions. For students and staff, faculty were the second most frequently reported perpetrator. Similar to the variables discussed above, 56 percent of People of Determination and 44 percent of Black participants reported experiences of harassment.
The report then delves into Specific IDBE Themes and finds that sizable majorities of participants agreed that NYUAD is approaching racial/ethnic justice in a systematic way that will produce lasting impact. The question of whether elitism is a major challenge to achieving IDBE goals and the extent to which marginalized students are expected to solve their own issues received more mixed results. Classroom Climate, which questioned whether faculty manage their classrooms in ways that foster IDBE, and Curriculum and addresses whether NYUAD has a well-defined curriculum to address IDBE, both produced more mixed results with the latter producing more negative findings. However, other findings were substantially more positive. With the exception of colorism and faculty hiring guidelines, sizable majorities agreed that Equitable Climate Practices are in place at NYUAD. Both faculty and staff were in agreement that Opportunities for Professional Development and Advancement exist at NYUAD.
The final part of the report presents findings that are direct interpretations of participant responses, structured under themes. Their importance lies on the basis of convergence across different types of data, different groups of participants and different analyses of variables or items. Under Responses to Sense of Belonging, there was generally a positive sense of belonging to varying degrees, where many felt connected to at least a subset or smaller circle within the community.
However, the climate was less hospitable for community members of marginalized identities. In Responses to Communication on Inclusivity and Belonging from NYUAD Administration The report stated that a major and consistent finding is that communication by the NYUAD leadership was seen as cumbersome, wordy and lacking in transparency. This was particularly in reference to Covid-19, policy changes, finances and students' funding. A subset did also praise the school's communication during difficult times. Two key points noted under this were U.S.-Centric/ Eurocentric undertones and communication being seen as performative.
With regards to Responses to Harassment, Bullying and Intimidation/ Response to Complaints, participants mentioned a lack of follow up and accountability after reporting an incident and that these were largely related to identity-based experiences. In Responses to Additional Information/ Next Steps two main points were mentioned. The first was Polarizing Politics, where a large group of students expressed wanting to see more inclusivity and less censorship around people who have conservative political beliefs. The second was Diversifying Staff and Faculty, where participants believed that diverse hiring practices are imperative and discussed that race, gender, ethnicity and nationality needed to be considered in hiring decisions.
A crucial fact noted by the report is that there is more than one unitary climate experience at NYUAD, and that it is important to be aware of how different facets of the climate interact and correspond to attachment and belonging at NYUAD.
The CDIHE recognized that NYUAD is currently moving toward implementing changes towards an inclusive campus climate and encouraged NYUAD to continue these ongoing efforts.
Githmi Rabel is Senior Opinion Editor. Sara Vuksanovic is a Book and Movie Columnist. Email them at
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