On Nov. 11, Dean of Students Kyle Farley sent an email to the NYU Abu Dhabi student body, expressing his concern about students’ wellbeing and safety. Farley discussed various initiatives targeting students’ self-care, run by student groups and university offices.
“As a tight knit community, it is incumbent on each of us — students, faculty and staff — to be informed about how we can best support ourselves and one another,” wrote Farley.
The issue of students’ responsibility and self-care has received increased attention since the beginning of the semester. While The Gazelle was not able to obtain the exact number of reported incidents on campus for fall 2016 — in part because statistics are compiled annually for each calendar year — various officials have estimated that there has been an increase in the number of reported incidents on campus.
Tina Wadhwa, the head of the Health Promotion Office, said that judging from the conversations she has been having with members of the student body, incidents are on the rise this semester. A similar observation was shared by senior and Residential Assistant Natalia Cruz.
“The RAs don’t have access to the [statistics], but we know there has been an increase in [the] amount of reports … When we’re doing our community walks, and when something happens we get a call,” explained Cruz.
In case of emergencies requiring external medical intervention, both Public Safety and the Health and Wellness Center get notified. Executive Director of Health and Wellness Doctor Halah Ibrahim said that it was too early to compare reporting trends in fall 2016 to those from previous semesters.
The number of incidents reported this semester will be published in 2017 by NYU’s Department of Public Safety along with the data from the entire year. For reference, the 2016 Annual Security and Campus Safety Report, which includes reported data for the year 2015, can be found here
Regardless of the university they attend, according to the Director of Counseling Doctor Rami Nizar Alshihabi, students are prompted to engage in risky behaviors as a result of stress, boredom, peer pressure, attempts to fit in or young age, among other factors.
However, some students have noticed a shift in campus culture. According to Cruz, there is an unquestionable change that is noticeable in students’ behaviors and in campus culture, made apparent in the visibility of risky situations.
The time lag between when the data is gathered and when it is made available to the NYUAD staff and wider community poses a difficulty in assessing the actual state of affairs. Various offices, including the Office of Student Life, the Health Promotion Office and the Department of Residential Education, have increased efforts to ensure students’ wellbeing and safety, in addition to regular medical and mental health support available to students through Health and Wellness. Initiatives include Bystander Intervention Training, Sexual Respect
Awareness Week, Saadiyat After Hours and a number of workshops, targeting aspects of college life such as eating habits, procrastination, alcohol use and sexual health.
Farley believes that upperclassmen play a crucial role in shaping campus culture, starting from the moment they arrive on campus as Marhaba concludes. Consequently, for Farley, peer-to-peer support is the most effective way of addressing safety concerns and promoting self and mutual care among the student body.
Responding to the request of the Health Promotion Office and their own observations, members of REACH have taken a leading role in helping promote a more positive campus culture. Part of their response was a flyer campaign touching upon topics such as social faux pas, medical emergencies and sexual consent through series of text messages posted around residential halls.
“Our goal was to use real life situations to educate students. Whether people thought the posters were judgmental, helpful, cheesy or funny, we wanted to encourage dialogue ... and above all, remind students that we all need to take care of ourselves and each other,” wrote sophomore Abigail Wilson on behalf of REACH.
Wilson noted that there has been improvement since the campaign was launched; however, the demand for similar initiatives still exists.
NYUAD, being a U.S. American institution, employs procedures and educational programs used in other U.S. universities. Yet, as its culture is built by students from a variety of nationalities, educational backgrounds and approaches to self-care, NYUAD’s distinct context calls for a more localized response. According to Wadhwa, educational programs are continuously adapted based on students’ feedback to best suit their specific needs.
Understanding the specific reasons for insufficient self-care among the student body is key in coming up with an appropriate response, according to Cruz. She acknowledged the difficulty of this task, adding that under the Good Samaritan
procedure, no student can be subject to disciplinary actions for reporting incidents that might be dangerous. She argued that this should help overcome students’ reluctance to assist those in need.
“Students here could take better care of each other than they have been doing,” said Farley, echoing her point.
Karolina Wilczynska is Research Editor. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.