Clarification on Language Policy for Saadiyat Workers

For the past weeks, students at NYU Abu Dhabi have been concerned that staff members on campus were being restricted by a new language policy, thought ...

For the past weeks, students at NYU Abu Dhabi have been concerned that staff members on campus were being restricted by a new language policy, thought to demand that those contracted by ADNH, Securitas and Serco speak only English when working. Investigations now show that there is no such policy in place.
When confronted with these concerns, Director of Public Affairs and Community Relations Greg Bruno decided to begin a thorough investigation to ensure that no policy of this kind was in place. He stressed that such a policy would contradict the university’s labor values.
Following investigations, Bruno and Director of Operations Kathrick Prasanna met with The Gazelle a week later to clarify the allegations. Bruno provided his clarification in written form:
“Many contractors require a functional level of English as a condition of their employment, while others have instituted guidelines that require communication in English or Arabic during working hours,” he wrote. "In both cases, these policies are meant to maintain a standardized level of service when employees are engaging with members of the University community, and also to ensure that employees, who often speak different languages, are able to communicate with each other. The policies are applied equally to all contracted employees; NYUAD compliance monitors to determine if any discrimination has been found with regards to application of any policies.
NYUAD does not believe that employees should be penalized for speaking their native language to each other or to a customer who wishes to speak in a language other than English or Arabic,” he continued. “We have recently learned about an incident earlier this semester in which three employees of one of our contractors were asked to use English or Arabic when on the job. These requests, we have been assured, were intended as reminders, and were not punitive. None of the three individuals were disciplined in any way … We have no concerns when employees speak other languages either to themselves — provided that doing so doesn’t alienate their colleagues — or customers engaging in those languages.”
Hoping to confirm that these policies are understood as clearly by the contracted staff members, The Gazelle reached out to a range of workers from Securitas and ADNH. In all cases, the policy was understood well.
“Of course we can speak in our own language,” said one of the Securitas guards, when asked if he could speak to students in their native languages.
Prasanna, drawing upon past professional experience, reinforced and extended these remarks during the meeting. He emphasized that NYUAD has the ability to push contractors to provide the service and treatment of workers in ways that make sense to customers. In further support of this claim, he explained that openness on compliance policies are made clear to staff members, as well as grievance mechanisms.
After it was established that workers are only encouraged to communicate in English and have the right to engage in other languages, Bruno reflected on the misinformation that can often circulate among the university community.
“Misconceptions of any type can be harmful,” he said. “In a community of our size, it’s not surprising that information spreads quickly, but that makes it incumbent on members of the university community to gather all the facts before jumping to conclusions.”
For junior Clara Correia, misconceptions about the professional requirements for Saadiyat workers need to be addressed for the well-being of the community.
“I think misunderstandings can lead to a certain degree of indignation amongst students, as I think was the case with the issue of whether languages other than English were allowed in the dining workplace,” she said. ”The community definitely benefits from expressing concerns and clearing misunderstandings regarding those issues.”
Oliver Andersson Hugemark is deputy news editor. Email him at
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