Sexual Misconduct Prevention Course for NYUAD Students

On April 12, students at NYU Abu Dhabi received an email about the Think About It: Campus Save course that satisfies US federal requirements to teach ...

Apr 18, 2015

On April 12, students at NYU Abu Dhabi received an email about the Think About It: Campus Save course that satisfies US federal requirements to teach students about sexual misconduct prevention.
On March 11, an NYU-wide email had been sent asking students to complete the same online course. However, NYUAD students were initially unable to access the provided link.
The following day, Tina Wadhwa, the associate director of Mental Health Promotion and Sexual Misconduct Support Services, posted a clarification and update on NYUAD’s Student Portal, urging students to disregard the message. Students were told that the office was in the process of planning a program that would be implemented for the Abu Dhabi campus.
“When the training module was released in New York, the Office of Sexual Misconduct Support Services in Abu Dhabi was developing a website meant to supplement the online course material with resources and supports available to students at NYUAD,” wrote Deputy Dean of Students Donna Eddleman to The Gazelle.
“And because our website was not ready when the March 11 email was sent, we made the decision to wait until it was before we offered the online course to our students here in Abu Dhabi,” she added.
Junior Clara Bicalho Maia Correia told The Gazelle that she took the course as soon as she received the working link.
“It took about 45 minutes. It really makes sure that you have to go through every single thing because you constantly have to be clicking; so, it makes sure people are actually engaged,” Correia stated. “I took the course immediately because I was really frustrated with the way that [us students abroad] were oriented in New York.”
Correia explained that she had received a similar sort of training during a fall semester in New York, but felt that not enough people had taken it seriously and that she was not given enough legal background on what what the actual standards were.
“[In the online course] they give situations that are relevant and actually link you to policies in NYU, which is something that I hadn’t read fully,” Correia continued. “So, it’s comprehensive ... [but] I think that is also part of my reservations with the training.”
She explained that while she thought the course adequately provides guidelines for student behavior and invites them to reflect about issues of drinking and sexual misconduct, the course does not speak very accurately to legal expectations for students in the UAE.
"I'm still unsure about what happens when I choose to report an act of sexual assault to the Abu Dhabi police, for example,” said Correia. “Because the training is addressed to New York student[s] it doesn't really address those question.”
Several students on the NYUAD’s Room of Requirement Facebook page also complained about how the course only included New York State legislature to explain terms and punishment outside of NYU’s own Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Violence and Stalking Policy.
Eddleman acknowledged that some of the content was specific to US-based institutions, adding that many of the students here will spend a semester or more at NYU New York. She did not respond to inquiries about whether there will be an effort to change or add more resources specific to NYUAD students in the future.
Instead, Eddleman pointed to the NYUAD Sexual Respect website that serves to describe procedures and to outline the support available within the community for issues of sexual misconduct. The website was created with input from the peer support group on campus REACH and serves to supplement online training. Review of this component is not compulsory, however.
Beyond issues pertinent to Abu Dhabi, some students were skeptical about the necessity of making a general course mandatory, arguing that most of the material presented is common sense.
Others responded that mandatory sexual misconduct training should be a critical part of university life at NYUAD, pushing back on the assumption that such guidelines are automatically inculcated in the student body.
“The fact that there was a negative reaction, as small as it was, to the requirement of this course goes to show how this issue is not yet given the importance it deserves by our community,” said sophomore Eduardo Campillo. “This is the first and foremost aspect that needs to change; people need to recognize that there is a problem of great importance and that it needs to be solved.”
While there were conflicting viewpoints about the way the training was presented and implemented, there was a general consensus on the importance of talking about these issues openly in the community.
Senior Bobby Haynes, in correspondence with The Gazelle, shared that he thought the community absolutely needs to have more open discussions about sexual misconduct, because while consensual sex outside of marriage is illegal in the UAE, this is not the case in all of NYU's study abroad locations.
“Things like sexual misconduct and alcohol abuse used to be either dusted under the rug or talked about in hypothetical nebulous language,” wrote Haynes to The Gazelle, saying that the only member of the staff who would speak frankly about this topic in the past was Dr. Birgit Pols, who unexpectedly left Health and Wellness at NYUAD last year.
Correia thinks the university was very cautious in the past regarding support for sexual assault, but that the compulsory training program signals a promising start in the right direction.
“It’s a start because it puts everyone at the same level of understanding NYU policies, and now we can talk about how that applies to our distinct legal environment,” Correia said. “Knowing what to do within the university isn't sufficient. [Although] a lot of those behaviors take place on campus, students are also involved outside campus in Abu Dhabi and those circumstances might come outside the scope of the university.”
While the online training program is mandatory for all NYUNY students, NYUAD students have the option to participate in a one-on-one conference or a phone call meeting with Wadhwa instead.
Students are required to successfully complete the online training program for Spring 2016 course registration. Information sessions are set to roll out to address students’ follow-up questions.
Correction: 19 April 2015
A previous version of this article said that students needed to complete the course for Fall 2015 course registration. 
Melinda Szekeres is news editor. Email her at
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