Image description: A student wonders why there is a perfectly fine light being fixed instead of other more urgent/pressing issues. End ID.
Image description: A student wonders why there is a perfectly fine light being fixed instead of other more urgent/pressing issues. End ID.

Illustration by Dulce Pop-Bonini

Redefining Success: Fixing What Isn’t Broken

The newly launched “Redefining Success” campaign in NYU Abu Dhabi attempts to change the way the university works to “better” itself (instead only increasing the chaos in the student body). "If it isn't broke, fix it!"

Oct 8, 2023

In some corners of the Saadiyat campus, there still exist members of a species that is growing rarer and rarer — things that are not broken. Ever since Vice Chancellor Marinate Pemican took office and created the Office of Student Success, the university has set out to reinvent the wheel and increase the complexity of every system within its web of bureaucracy. “The real hallmark of a successful, globally leading liberal arts college is the number of associate assistant directors and managers we can hire for a million dirhams a year,” said the McKinsey consultant hired to develop the university’s comprehensive action plan for 2030. Within the same meeting, it was calculated that the budget no longer allowed for anybody to study away who had an unofficial GPA below 3.975.
As Shoppa Holec, Class of 2025, got a call in the middle of his Linear Algebra midterm, he realized it was about the caffeine pills that he had ordered to help him snap out of bed for his economics professor, who would mark him absent if he arrived at 8:31 a.m.. “Sir, the mail room did not accept your package,” the voice on the other end of the line said. Keeping the Amazon delivery driver waiting, he let his neurons fire to incomprehensibly scribble the final derivation of the exam before he rushed upstairs to collect his package.
“If the mail room isn’t here to collect mail, what even is true anymore? Is a student here to learn? Is the D2 dining hall here for dining?,” he wondered to himself. It was a new adaptation of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Redefining Success campaign. “Students have gotten too used to things working as their name would suggest,” said page 42 of the comprehensive action plan. “Our job is to redefine success in students’ lives … and encourage agency … and yeah, I don’t know what we’re trying to do,” the paragraph concluded.
He walked back to his dorm, through the maze of orange, white, and yellow that his mind had long decided was part of the Matrix. A bubble devoid of real world reality. He finally realized there actually was a brand new sign on the front of his residential building: “A2.C Residential College.” But when A2 looks exactly like A6, what meaning do these abstract numbers represent? “I’ve always felt like I’m actually a research subject in a grand experiment, and the results of my university life will be in an academic paper someday. But at least it’ll get some professor tenure,” he thought. Why ponder the storied heritage and history of a university that rose organically when numbers can tell you where you learn, where you sleep, and where you work? Soon, the imaginary components of NYUAD’s renowned liberal arts education will take shape in Building -3i, where the ideals that the university was founded on will also be moving.
“Houston, we have a problem,” said the new Dean of Fixation, Yeh-me. “Students are getting compensated a little too fairly for their efforts, and their breaches of the Saadiyat bubble are jeopardizing the scientific validity of our research.” Just yesterday, Holec received an email that his position of ordering food for his Student Interest Group now counted as a student assistantship where he would have to log two hours on his timesheet per week. He was now ineligible to hold his other two positions on campus due to the position limit, so he would have to cut out some Deliveroo — and he’d have a few hours to actually find something to think about on this campus when there’s no work to loom over the horizon.
His brother, Coffa, who had accepted his Early Decision I offer, noticed that even his Weyak leader, who was supposed to provide the rosy, optimistic picture, was publicly burned out. “We’re an American campus when it benefits us, and when it’s not, we don’t have to be. It’s that simple,” Yeh-me added. “American bureaucratic systems and liberal arts rhetoric, but no pesky American wages (to anyone except administrators)!” The old model of having Residential Assistants and First-Year Dialogue was becoming antiquated; one position paying at the cost of one sustainable glass bottle of water per hour could fulfill both functions. “My facilitator had been scheduled for the 7:00 a.m. shift the morning after his 3:00 a.m. shift, and in his sleep deprived state, told me some secrets about the simulation … never mind,” Coffa told Shoppa.
Knowing he’d have to find a new online side hustle soon enough, Shoppa headed up to the library cafe to grind out some applications on his laptop. He saw that it had been freshly repainted in a radioactive shade of green, complete with methodically arranged tables that shockingly were not missing all but one of their chairs. But, when he went to plug his dying gaming laptop into the wall, he noticed that it was not charging. He tried the outlet next to it, and the one across from it, and the one on the other side of the library cafe. Same deal. It turns out that students were spending too much time working in the work area. With everything digital and every professor having the unrealistic expectations that come from being bribed to work on a desert island, the problem remained that free time WAS work time anyway. Neither of the Holec brothers has had any free time during their university careers, except for one day in Shoppa’s first year when it turned out he had forgotten to write a major paper.
Speaking of work, the Career Development Center updated its pièce de résistance — a refusal to adapt to the changing needs of the local job market. The career fair would add even more representatives to simply tell students about QR code links to job applications that 3,246 other people would apply to. In collaboration with the Office of Student Finance, they would also be working to hold the line on student compensation. “The only way we can get more research assistants to stay on campus and keep this institution going is to not offer enough for the summer to even pay for a room in New York,” its memo stated. No matter how much money Joe Biden prints and how much the dining hall inflates its costs, we will receive 31.5 dirhams per meal swipe and 346 biweekly campus dirhams until the end of time — even when that only buys a banana.
Ethan Fulton is Editor-in-Chief. Email them at
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