Last week, The Gazelle published an

Letter from the Editor: On Core Controversy

Last week, The Gazelle published an article covering the draft proposal for changes to the Core Curriculum. The ensuing response was surprising in both ...

Nov 14, 2015

Last week, The Gazelle published an article covering the draft proposal for changes to the Core Curriculum. The ensuing response was surprising in both scope and degree. Though students remained largely silent, The Gazelle received many responses from faculty members concerned about the article and the editorial decisions behind its publication.
There is a lot to parse here. A good start, however, may be to address each criticism of the article individually, in hopes that a point-by-point strategy can gesture more broadly toward the motivations shaping The Gazelle's coverage.
The most prominent concern regarding the article was the anonymity of a faculty member who offered criticism of the Core proposal. To clarify, the anonymous faculty member who was quoted in the article is not the same anonymous faculty member who provided the article's graph. The Gazelle did not emphasize that there were two separate, anonymous individuals involved in the initial article, and we now apologize for this lack of clarity.
This was not the piece's underlying intent, but some have remarked that the article reads as a point-counter-point on the proposal’s merits, in which The Gazelle unfairly grants anonymity to only one side. We understand how this seems skewed; the anonymity does not allow the Core Curriculum Committee or its chair to respond to the detractor, at least not personally. Moreover, it creates an imbalance in which the CCC must publicly stake its claim in the issue, while the anonymous voice is not held to the same level of accountability.
We recognize this imbalance, but we also think it is necessary and fair. As the official body leading the charge in Core reform, the CCC is expected to offer a public stance and communicate this stance to the larger student body. The CCC cannot act anonymously the same way that a member of our general community, speaking independently, should be allowed to.
What warrants more concern is another possibility some readers raised — that anonymity hampers dialogue on the Core. If people employ anonymity, then they are not responsible for the opinions they voice and the quality of dialogue suffers.
We take the opposite view. We believe that anonymity can be useful for the type of platform that The Gazelle cultivates. This publication does not map easily onto the in-person encounters or communal intimacy that our university enjoys when we talk about events offline. Our audience is bigger; there are more people in the room. The Gazelle believes that the realm of online journalism, which lies beyond private Town Halls or office deliberations, makes it acceptable for an opinion to be considered without an issuing identity attached.
Untethering the name from the view does not just mean “letting the source off the hook.” The view can still be critically and fairly received; it can be judged for its merit, for the kernels of truth that it offers to other individuals and their experiences at this institution. While the person may not be held to a full level of accountability, the opinion still is.
We recognize that in allowing anonymity, The Gazelle took away the opportunity for the CCC to respond directly to this individual. But The Gazelle is not interested in, nor responsible for, such a line of dialogue.
Any response the CCC now offers to the faculty member's viewpoint will not be directed at that specific faculty member. The response must instead be communicated publicly and impersonally — hopefully through The Gazelle. This is not because we want to monopolize conversation space. Rather, The Gazelle seeks to elevate discourse to a public level, enabling productive opinions to unfold and encounter each other in front of the reader. We believe this point is particularly salient now that the Core reform process seems to have bumped up against sensitive interdivisional rivalries and politics.
On a journalistic level, The Gazelle’s Inner Code of Conduct grants sources anonymity if it is believed that the source risks their physical safety, mental well-being or professional standing in being quoted. Sometimes a variety of factors, such as relationships with colleagues or a lack of tenure, may merit anonymity for faculty members.
Regarding the graph that was published, The Gazelle recognizes that the data’s parameters were not fully representative of the university's reality. This is not to say that the second faculty member who provided the graph had been deliberately misrepresentative or manipulative. They were dealing with an incomplete dataset that The Gazelle should have reconsidered and attempted to improve upon. We regret not doing so, and we have since taken down the graph and issued a correction in the initial article.
The Gazelle allowed the inclusion of the graph because it provided numerical grounding for a trend that many students know to be a frustrating reality. There is no glossing over the steep rise in student-faculty ratios in certain social science and natural science courses. This does not change the fact that the numbers of the graph were misleading and that the graph should not have been published. However, we hope this explanation sheds light on why we thought the anonymous quote and graph merited publication: they called attention to a phenomenon that has been negatively affecting a large portion of our student body. Neither faculty member attributed this phenomenon exclusively to the Core proposal, something we think was made clear in the article.
Finally, some readers felt that The Gazelle overstepped in publishing the article. They interpret the article as an endorsement of the anonymous professor’s opinion, as reportage that bleeds into editorializing. The Gazelle firmly believes any such reading is a misreading, produced at a time when the Core reform process has become increasingly susceptible to interdivisional disagreements and politics.
The Gazelle is not partial to any side. Neither is it impartial in the traditional sense of the word, because we are not interested in acting as objective referee or moderator, or even recognizing sides in the first place. For The Gazelle, the Core is primarily an issue of student education and not of interdivisional rivalry. All students undertake the Core Curriculum, all are negatively or positively affected by its drawbacks and merits. From this perspective, the idea of taking sides becomes irrelevant. The only interest The Gazelle will ever advocate for is that of the student body, which is united in its experience of the Core, and which deserves a reform that prioritizes the undergraduate experience as its chief concern. The faculty member’s opinion was included because it highlighted a student problem, not a faculty or divisional interest.
The Core Curriculum will have an incredible impact on the way NYU Abu Dhabi students approach academics and higher education in general. For this reason, the CCC has worked tirelessly to place student interests at the foundation of Core reform and to seek their feedback. The chair and student representatives of the Committee, in particular, have done a commendable job at outreach. Though Town Hall attendance records may hint otherwise, the university’s student body is indeed very passionate about NYUAD's trajectory and its vision for learning.
This is the overall motivation behind our coverage of the Core issue, and the publication’s broader existence. We support an institution where students, faculty, administration and staff can cooperate across boundaries and interests. But The Gazelle’s ultimate loyalty will always lie with the students.
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