The Mizzou controversy and its faint echoes at NYUAD

Over the past two weeks, student protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri have made national headlines in the United States. ...

Nov 21, 2015

Over the past two weeks, student protests at Yale University and the University of Missouri have made national headlines in the United States. Protesters decried the treatment of students of color, who are a minority within largely white student bodies at Yale, the University of Missouri and other U.S. universities and colleges.
According to protesters, the continued use of racial slurs, insults and insensitive comments by faculty and other students has contributed to the marginalization and exclusion of students of color. Pressure from the University of Missouri students led to the resignation of President Tim Wolfe on 9 Nov. 2015.
In light of these protests and similar ones at Claremont McKenna College and Ithaca College, NYU streamed a Listening Session on diversity and inclusion online on 18 Nov. 2015. The session was open to all students, faculty and staff.
In response to concerns voiced at the session, President John Sexton wrote an email to the university on 20 Nov. 2015, stating that funding for the Center for Multicultural Education and Programs will be doubled. The University Senate Executive Committee will also form a committee on diversity and inclusion to determine further actions NYU can take to address the issue.
NYU Abu Dhabi students received this email and had access to the live stream of the Listening Session, but neither NYUAD’s own administration nor NYUAD students have publicly reacted to the protests.
The Debate Union held a session about the balance between safe spaces and free speech on university campuses, but attendance was limited. Some have credited this lack of response to the feeling that U.S.-specific racial tensions are not particularly relevant to our community, which is extremely diverse in terms of race and nationality.
Freshman Thomas Yates, who attended the Debate Union’s session, said that the issues did not quite concern the NYUAD student body.
“There's so little racism here — as pretty much everyone is a minority — that every person I've talked to feels as if it just doesn't affect them,” said Yates. “There are no subjugated groups on campus, so the issue of inclusivity of races while maintaining free speech isn't a big issue.”
Some NYUAD students have, however, encountered other forms of racism not emphasized by the student protesters in the U.S.
While many NYUAD students cannot relate to the specific instances highlighted by the Yale and University of Missouri protesters, other facets of the controversy resonate more strongly. The protests at Yale and the University of Missouri elucidate not only issues of racism, but also the tenuous relationship between inclusivity and open dialogue on controversial issues. While new standards like trigger warnings seek to respect victims of trauma or oppression, some are concerned that such measures pose limitations on free speech.
NYUAD strives to be inclusive of diverse opinions, but certain viewpoints have much more support on campus than others.
“What inhibits open discussion is the fact that once a belief becomes normalized at this school, there is no outlet to speak against it,” said sophomore Adrienne Chang. “Our self-censorship and political correctness make us uncomfortable to speak out against what has now become the normal viewpoint because our student body is so small and we are trying to minimize hostility.”
The concern was voiced this week on the NYUAD Confessions Facebook page, where someone anonymously posted about NYUAD’s Students for Justice in Palestine group, which enjoys wide support on campus.
“[SJP] will create an unhealthy (or even hostile) atmosphere [on] campus for those who are either supportive of the State of Israel and/or are Jewish,” one submission read, adding the hope that SJP “will behave appropriately regarding this issue, making sure they do not offend students who support the State of Israel for whatever reason.”
One commentator responded to this post, emphasizing the need to keep the conversation open.
“Students who support the State of Israel don't have the right to not be offended ‘for whatever reason’ and it is certainly not the obligation of Students for Justice in Palestine to ‘behave appropriately’ in order to avoid offending people,” said the student commentator. “The only obligation that any of us have is to tell the truth as best as we know it and give those who disagree with us the opportunity to present their point of view.”
Annie Bauer is deputy copy chief. Email her at 
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