The NYUAD Gray

As a student at NYU Abu Dhabi for over a semester now, I feel the need to comment: we live in the gray. Make no mistake; NYUAD is not a dull and boring ...

Feb 21, 2015

As a student at NYU Abu Dhabi for over a semester now, I feel the need to comment: we live in the gray.
Make no mistake; NYUAD is not a dull and boring existence. There is plenty to do on and around campus. However, it is in those things that the problem lies. Activities both on and off campus are obscured by an NYUAD syndrome: implicit ignorance.
The first example of our gray ignorance is student disciplinary proceedings. Although the writing of a judicial process is underway, with the added help of dialogue between the Campus Life Policy Advisory Committee and administration, many students continue to feel insecure. In Sama Tower, two-knock courtesies were practiced by Resident Assistants along with many assurances of goodwill; possession of illegal items like candles and shishas were often given a silent nod. Here on Saadiyat, some of these de facto policies have vanished, yet the gap between what is codified and what is seen on campus still continues to widen. Under the guise of discipline on a case-by-case basis, offenders have completed tasks ranging from accompanying RAs on rounds to writing Bart-Simpson-esque essays. Punishment is a crapshoot.
Next, we have the problem of certain students’ views. Although a variety of people’s rights are assured on campus, what truly anchors them? Some views are theoretically unacceptable in the UAE. Different forms of student demonstration, non-Islamic religious practice and minority rights could all pose potential conflicts.
As such, the discussion of ignorance brings to mind first-year grades. Do they count? Do they count if you want them to? Do they count if graduate schools want them to? Do they count if you just want to release January Term grades? I have no clue. I select classes and work on the assumption that they do. I conservatively study within the university’s liberal arts curriculum in fear of what the gray means.Granted, when I say liberal arts curriculum, I also have no idea what that means. The Core that underlies our university is more obscured than the one inside an apple. Although we are encouraged to experiment and excite within the Core, we cannot take introductory courses without sacrificing general electives. Engineers cannot even afford the penalty.
Foundations of Science is the best example of the Core’s hypocrisy. Under the program’s current structure, if a visual arts student wished to take just a biology class, they are out of luck. To take a biology class means first completing FOS 1 and 2 while taking the corequisite of calculus. Thus, while at most non-liberal arts universities any student can easily experiment with a biology class on a whim, at our exploratory and liberal institution, one must sacrifice 75-percent of their courses a semester. It is exceedingly difficult to take genuine courses outside your major in a university built on that very principle. Again, rhetoric and reality seem to differ when it comes to the Core.
I do not deny the value of the gray. It is within the gray that NYUAD presents an exciting and thriving academic environment inside an otherwise conservative world. Nevertheless, it is within this same gray that ridiculous and oppressive double standards thrive. If NYUAD wants to be a successful university as it moves to Saadiyat, we need to ask ourselves what’s wrong with some black and white. What’s wrong with transparency?
Tom Klein is a contributing writer. Email him at
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