Illustration by Megan Eloise/The Gazelle

Students Gather To Discuss New SSC Position

On April 21 the NYU Abu Dhabi Student Government hosted a town hall on the proposed amendment to create a senatorial position for an NYUAD ...

Apr 26, 2014

Illustration by Megan Eloise/The Gazelle
On April 21 the NYU Abu Dhabi Student Government hosted a town hall on the proposed amendment to create a senatorial position for an NYUAD representative on the Student Senators Council in New York. The attendees discussed the process and implications of the seat created by the NYU University Senate on April 17.
The April 13 General Assembly passed a motion to host this town hall in preparation for the vote to be held at the April 27 GA. SSC Chair Mariam Ehrari called in from New York, along with two other members of the SSC Executive Committee. The town hall was also joined by NYUAD junior and a current senator-at-large in New York, Robert Haynes.
It was called into question whether the actions of Student Government President Mohammed Omar captured the spirit of the previous GA. Ehrari spoke about Omar’s decision not to release the communiqué to the University Senate crafted by the April 13 GA, which requested that the SSC hold off voting on the creation of a seat until the GA had voted to approve it.
“It came in a few days before the vote was actually going to happen, and [the Senate Committee on Organization and Governance] had introduced the proposal before the University Senate seven weeks ago, and the binder [the details of the package-amendment] had been sent out,” said Ehrari. “The only option we would have had at that point would be to request that we take away the representation of Abu Dhabi … which would have blown the whole thing down.”
The package-amendment includes not only NYUAD, NYU Shanghai and NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering but also their faculty councils as well as non-tenure track faculty at NYU New York. Ehrari noted that once a graduate program is created at NYUAD, a seat will naturally be added on the University Senate.
“It’s essentially … an analogous example to [adding] a state to the United States, the constitution works that … it will naturally get a seat in Congress, and this is how the university bylaws describe it,” said Ehrari.
Concerns were raised over the process by which this amendment was created, with several students noting the lack of NYUAD’s involvement and the tight timeframe.
“Even before we’ve given them more formal mechanisms which would give them more power, more authority over this campus … they’re already able to take this out of our hands and to violate our desires here,” said senior Stephen Underwood.
“Because Abu Dhabi, among several other constituencies such as Poly, contract faculty et cetera … did not have a seat at the table, there was no mechanism for being involved in the process from the get-go several years ago,” said NYUNY senior and Senator-at-Large Mason Dettloff. “So the idea was, get everyone a seat at the table, so from here on out NYU Abu Dhabi, Shanghai are included in any decision making, from the beginning.”
“This will sound very odd … Technically, officially, since [NYU] Abu Dhabi has been in existence, the SSC … has been representing [NYU] Abu Dhabi,” said Ehrari.
Ehrari believed that some of the miscommunication was the result of different election cycles. Haynes, who served as class representative and interim vice president in the last executive board, affirmed that former Student Government President Leah Reynolds was aware that NYUAD would eventually have a permanent seat on the SSC.
Beyond the processes and communication difficulties, the town hall explored the possible future of student governance at NYU.
According to Haynes, SCOG is currently involved in a major reevaluation of the Senate purpose and membership to begin in academic year 2014-2015 and continue over a two-year period.
“If we can’t make the SSC a GNU body and do one-third, one-third, one-third, how do we elevate our other portal campuses and all be on the same playing field in a certain space?” said Ehrari. “That’s where the GSC comes in, in my mind, where we are all equal and we all serve for the GNU.”
The University Senate deals with university-wide issues according to the NYU website.
“Does this include us or not?” said NYUAD junior Benjamin Jance, suggesting that there must be discussion as to the role of the University Senate in the context of the GNU.
“The question is how do we get them to really engage in thinking what it should be?” said senior Eric Johnson. “Because my experience … is [that] what we’ve been doing here for four years is reimagining things.”
Ending her call, Ehrari made it clear that any student should feel free to reach out her with any questions or concerns.
“Your point about wanting to step back instead of jumping in: I agree and I adhere to that mentality very much so. I think unfortunately … this governance structure is not perfect and sometimes because of the way things work we have to do things we’re not comfortable with ... I would say send a representative and … get what you really want.”
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