Resolution Proposed to Offer Scholarships, Financial Aid to Syrian Students

On March 3, NYU Abu Dhabi Student Senator Patrick Sheldon Wee proposed to the Student Senators Council a resolution which stated that NYU should become ...

Apr 16, 2016

On March 3, NYU Abu Dhabi Student Senator Patrick Sheldon Wee proposed to the Student Senators Council a resolution which stated that NYU should become a member of Institute of International Education Syria Consortium for Higher Education in Crisis. On March 24, the SSC unanimously passed the resolution, which is also the first proposal applied to the Global Network University brought to the floor by NYUAD.
The IIE is a not-for-profit organization that works with universities, governments and foundations to create and support various programs of study such as the Fulbright Program. The IIE Syria Consortium encourages universities in the United States to commit to providing financial aid and scholarships to Syrian students and scholars for the academic year 2016-2017.
The resolution, which is a public document accessible to all members of NYU, states that “New York University’s core values compel it to act in solidarity with Syrian students and scholars, in keeping with its commitment to develop ‘in this immense and fast-growing city… a system of rational and practical education fitting for all and graciously opened to all.’”
There are no signs of a peaceful end to the civil war in Syria, and hundreds of Syrians have died or have fled the country in the past five years. Among those displaced, a considerable proportion is made up of Syrian scholars and students, who not only require emergency assistance and refuge, but also financial assistance to continue their academic pursuits, as universities and institutions within Syria are continually targeted and destroyed. According to the resolution, “[i]t is the moral obligation of all capable parties and institutions to provide this assistance.”
The resolution points to several U.S. American universities such as Dartmouth College, Boston University and Tufts University that have taken up the responsibility of supporting Syrian scholars and students by becoming members of the IIE Syria Consortium.
Sheldon Wee’s proposal is now on track to be presented in front of University Senate. According to him, the SSC is also in the process of sending a letter to the NYU’s administration to expedite the process. Some members of the faculty in Abu Dhabi as well as the Faculty Committee on NYU’s Global Network are taking similar measures.
While commitment to offer scholarships and financial aid awards to students based on nationality or other classifications can seem like an example of affirmative action, Sheldon Wee disagreed.
“I don't believe this is a case of affirmative action per se,” wrote Sheldon Wee in an email to The Gazelle. “Affirmative action involves past historical wrongs, because groups of people have been disadvantaged as a result of their race, sex or religion, among others. In this particular case, we're not necessarily improving educational opportunities due to past historical wrongs but rather due to current urgent need.”
On the question of whether NYU is indeed receiving applications for admission from war-struck areas, Sheldon Wee noted that the exact numbers are difficult to obtain since FERPA regulations do not allow the administration to release specific data about individuals.
“What we do know, though, is that we have quite a number of current students from Syria, not just at NYU New York, but also at NYU Abu Dhabi,” wrote Sheldon Wee.
Some NYUAD students expressed concerns regarding the outreach and accessibility of such programs.
“My only fear is that this fund will not reach those people in refugee camps, but it will get to the refugees who managed to get to better places and who have more opportunities,” said freshman Lina Amjad Elmusa. She has worked in several Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and has family in Syria.
Syrian sophomore Rosy Tahan pointed out similar concerns. She mentioned that people who are mostly fit in terms of language efficiency and academic excellence to attend U.S. American universities are often the ones who are least impacted by wars because they have had the opportunity to move to other countries, as English-language education is uncommon in Syria. In addition, Tahan noted that students in refugee camps will not have the luxury to prepare for standardized testing. According to the IIE Syria Consortium’s website, universities and colleges can indicate required tests and scores, but there is no mention of constructing a separate application that will not require standardized testing.
Furthermore, citizenship plays an integral role in university admissions, and will continue to do so. Elmusa pointed out that the two Syrians in Class of 2019 at NYUAD have not lived in Syria at all. Tahan herself was born and raised in the UAE.
Tahan also noted the heightened security around visas and immigration as an important issue.
“It might be difficult for Syrian students to come to the UAE because of tightened immigration. If you look at all the Syrian students in our school, they're all people who lived somewhere else,” wrote Tahan. “I know from the experience of friends and family that it's becoming incredibly difficult — if not impossible — for Syrians to obtain visas to the UAE.”
Despite their hesitation, both Tahan and Elmusa lauded the resolution in its aim to provide financial assistance and scholarships to Syrian scholars and students who might have been displaced due to the recent political upheaval.
Khadeeja Farooqui is editor-in-chief. Email her at
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