As we publish our 235th issue at The Gazelle this week, we are acutely aware of the trials and tribulations of running an independent, student-led newspaper in NYU Abu Dhabi. Over the past eight years of our operation, The Gazelle has strived to sustain itself as an inclusive platform open for critical engagement with students, administration, faculty, and the larger community within and beyond NYUAD.
Over the course of the past two years, The Gazelle has published under extenuating circumstances: we published at the height of the pandemic, across continents and time zones, when life was conducted entirely remotely at NYUAD. We published last year, as our university was in a limbo, somewhat remote and somewhat in-person, with some of us on study aways and some of us on campus throughout the year
. Most importantly, we have persevered amid unfavorable policy changes at the university, which have personally impacted many of us in the newsroom. Between abrupt removals of our stipends to dwindling resources in the face of a rapidly growing community, from issues concerning mental health support to Moses Center accommodations to enrollment, The Gazelle has been a platform of constructive critique, always offering the community a mirror to check and assure ourselves of our collective goals and mission.
In the newsroom, we started this year more quietly than previous years. We decided to start with a healthy level of internal appraisals and introspection: how have we held up to the promises we have made in the past years? Last year, we promised to do better in building a representative newsroom and a sustainable work culture
. The year before that, we promised to center marginalized voices
. The majority of our staff, with some exceptions, came together in-person at the Abu Dhabi campus this semester. We took this up as an opportunity to engage with our staff on focused workshops to improve our internal work culture. With the loss of our financial freedoms and the return to life as per ‘normal’ amid a time when many of the places we call home are hurting, we were preparing for a staff more burnt out and drained than previous years.
Working at The Gazelle has always been a job that is not monetarily compensated, one that must remain so to respect our independence. Yet, the task of working sometimes up to ten hours and more during the week is understandably tiring, and conversations of improving work culture and accountability within our publication room remain ongoing.
Certainly, our work has not been made any easier by diminishing institutional support. It would be disingenuous on anyone’s part to deny the instrumental role that The Gazelle has performed as an accountability mechanism for NYU Abu Dhabi. Some of the calls for reform, change, and transparency expressed on our platform have been heard and addressed, from changes in academic curricula to more conversations about economic privilege in the university to greater coverage at the CDC’s events. Many have not.
The Gazelle has faced varied unsavory responses from administration at NYU Abu Dhabi in the past. But the gatekeeping, and sometimes outright rejection of comment requests and clarifications for well-intentioned articles, especially from senior administration, and the lack of a constructive, good-willed engagement with the work that we do is a hindrance to our reporting at best and an outright blemish on various academic and journalistic freedoms in this university at worst.
We are now approaching the end of this semester, and as we look towards Spring, we hope to continue to publish critical, nuanced, and sensitive articles that hold NYU Abu Dhabi and its idealized vision of an inclusive and holistic academic and social experience accountable to what was once promised. The Gazelle is run by the love and labor poured into each article we write, edit, re-write, edit again, and finally publish every Sunday night. At its heart, we are a publication that seeks to question and celebrate the potential of our community.
To be able to do so effectively, not only do we need less bureaucratic hurdles to navigate but we need active, persistent, and purposeful engagement from all members of our community — this includes students but also administration, staff, and perhaps most importantly, faculty.
Journalistic freedom and academic freedom are inextricably linked, and in spaces such as NYU Abu Dhabi, where the waters concerning what we can and cannot report on are often murky, these freedoms we have, as students and scholars, to push the boundaries of thought and action are crucial to our underpinning of a liberal arts education. The Gazelle is an independent publication, not to isolate itself from this community and its concerns, but to do justice to these concerns by maintaining editorial integrity and impartiality in all the work we produce. We document, report and advocate on behalf of all community members and while we have been imperfect at times, this is what motivates our work.
The lack of engagement with and advocacy for student journalism at our campus is not a new concern but one that has been brought up time and time again. Today, we use this opportunity to ask administrative and faculty members to reach out to us, to work in collaboration with us and to help us preserve the freedoms integral to the NYUAD mission. As we look to grow
in our next decade, our community needs to engage more holistically with a platform like The Gazelle to help steer its growth constructively and intentionally. NYUAD offered a radical new vision of higher education and during a time when that has felt increasingly fraught, we need your support to do our part in making that vision attainable.
The Gazelle publishes weekly. You can contribute to us by attending our pitch meetings, held in A4-006 at 4:00 p.m. every Sunday or by reaching out to our Senior Editors through email.
Githmi Rabel and Huma Umar are Editors-in-Chief. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org