[Marxism] N.Y.U. Journalism Faculty Boycotts Abu Dhabi Campus

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 8 09:20:32 MST 2017

NY Times, Nov. 8 2017
N.Y.U. Journalism Faculty Boycotts Abu Dhabi Campus

Journalism professors at New York University are refusing to teach at 
the school’s Abu Dhabi campus, after officials in the United Arab 
Emirates denied a faculty member a visa to teach there. That denial is a 
risk to academic freedom and the university’s administration has failed 
to speak out forcefully enough, the journalism faculty said.

Mohamad Bazzi, a journalism professor, is one of at least two N.Y.U. 
faculty members whose visas have been rejected this year by the United 
Arab Emirates, which have given no reason for the denial. But Professor 
Bazzi, who was born in Lebanon, and Arang Keshavarzian, a professor of 
Middle Eastern politics whose visa application was also denied, believe 
it may be in part because they are Shiite Muslims, an affiliation they 
were asked to disclose on their applications.

Abu Dhabi, the largest of the emirates, is ruled by a royal family from 
the Sunni Muslim tradition, and it has a troubling history when it comes 
to academic freedom and human rights.

A group describing itself as a majority of the Arthur L. Carter 
Journalism Institute’s faculty wrote to the university president, Andrew 
D. Hamilton, on Nov. 2. In the letter, the group said, “We have not been 
given an explanation for the denial of these visas, but if it was for 
reasons of religious affiliation, or because of our colleagues’ writing 
and research, it would represent a significant threat to academic 
freedom on that campus.”

The university’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study joined in, 
urging staff in a letter to essentially boycott the campus in the United 
Arab Emirates until there was a resolution.

On Monday, Mr. Hamilton responded, saying the university would establish 
a more transparent process for dealing with visa denials, and urged the 
faculties to rethink the boycott. “The call to refrain from engagement 
is misplaced, not because the issue is not serious, but because it 
misses the mark, punishing students and faculty at N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi over 
a visa decision in which they had no hand and with which they disagree,” 
Mr. Hamilton wrote.

But the response stopped short of criticizing Emirati authorities, the 
kind of condemnation N.Y.U. has been swift to issue in cases in which 
other regimes have appeared to target individuals, Professor 
Keshavarzian said. Much of the academic outcry stems from what is seen 
as a double standard in the school’s strong public stances in recent 
months about the Trump administration’s decisions on Deferred Action for 
Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and its travel bans.

“This project was created in the name of liberal education, of global 
outreach, of cosmopolitanism,” Professor Keshavarzian said. “This campus 
is developing a reputation that there are very real limits on who can 
teach and study at this university and what can be potentially said on 
this campus.”

He added, “It suggests that there is a truly dysfunctional relationship, 
antithetical to the principles that N.Y.U. lauds and very publicly 
speaks out upon.”

Between the academic years 2009-10 and 2015-16, 863 professors submitted 
applications for visas, and 10 were rejected, according to data compiled 
by the university and shared with The New York Times. During the same 
period, 2,874 other people associated with the university applied for 
visas, including members of the support staff, researchers and one 
student; 95 applications were rejected.

By comparison, since the 2013-14 academic year, just one faculty member 
out of 254 bound for N.Y.U.’s Shanghai campus has been denied a work visa.

It is the Emirati government, not the university, that oversees who gets 
work visas. The construction of the campus, which opened in 2010, was 
wholly funded by the government of Abu Dhabi, which also pays for many 
students’ scholarships.

When the Abu Dhabi campus was announced in 2007, N.Y.U.’s president at 
the time, John Sexton, pledged that it would be “built with academic 
quality and practices conforming to the same standards as those at 
N.Y.U.’s Washington Square campus, including our standards of academic 

In his letter, Mr. Hamilton addressed the issue. “I understand, too, 
that faculty are concerned that the nature of our relationship with our 
Abu Dhabi partners may have led us to respond differently to the visa 
denials than we did to changes in U.S. immigration policy,” he wrote. He 
went on to suggest that the visas were not denied because the country 
was trying to exclude certain groups, but for reasons specific to the 
people who were rejected. There are faculty members and students who are 
Shiite, Sunni, Jewish and Christian at the campus, the president wrote.

Alya El Hosseiny, an Egyptian doctoral student, was awarded a research 
fellowship from N.Y.U.’s Abu Dhabi institute for 2016 but was denied a 
visa by the government. She was active in the Arab Spring revolts and is 
still linked on social media to people in prison in Egypt, she said. She 
speculated that those factors contributed to her denial. In 2011, as 
waves of discontent spread into the United Arab Emirates, the government 
cracked down on reformers, jailing protesters and successfully 
maintaining its power.

“I think that preventing scholars from doing their work is completely 
unfair, completely unjust. And it stands directly in opposition to 
academic freedom,” Ms. El Hosseiny, 28, said on the telephone from 
Cairo, where she is completing her fellowship.

Follow Sarah Maslin Nir on Twitter: @sarahmaslinnir

More information about the Marxism mailing list