Middle East studies in the News
NYU Journalism Department Ends Relationship With NYU Abu Dhabi
The Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute voted to discontinue its relationship with NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) following dissatisfaction with the United Arab Emirates denying work visas to journalism professor Mohamad Bazzi and politics professor Arang Keshavarzian, as well as NYU President Andrew Hamilton's muted response to the situation.
The decision, declared in a letter sent to Hamilton on Thursday and provided to NYU Local Friday morning, comes after Bazzi and Keshavarzian were denied security clearance after being invited to teach at NYUAD. The two professors, both Shiites, claim they were denied visas due to their religious affiliations. Bazzi detailed his experience in a New York Times op-ed in September.
As Local reported in October, the Middle East and Islamic Studies Department (MEIS) called on Hamilton to address the issue after weeks of silence from the university following Bazzi's op-ed. In turn, Hamilton responded in a letter the next day in which he called the UAE's decision "very troubling." However, he insisted that the global university framework has its challenges and that calls to eschew the Abu Dhabi campus were "premature."
For Bazzi and Keshavarzian, this response was insufficient.
"The issue is not about our denial of entry into the UAE or UAE's immigration policies," Keshavarzian told Local last month. "It is about the response of the NYU administration, or, I should say, lack of response. Hamilton does not acknowledge the fact that we were denied entry to teach at NYU's very own campus."
Bazzi, for his part, wanted to see the university make a public statement rather than a quietly issued letter to faculty.
"I find it strange that this was not a public statement from the president," Bazzi wrote to Local. "It's indicative of how the NYU administration continues to go out of its way to avoid publicly criticizing the UAE or challenging its policies."
In the weeks that ensued, Hamilton declined to address the issue in a manner the department deemed necessary, leading the Institute to break ties with the university's Abu Dhabi campus.
"We have the utmost respect for our faculty colleagues and students at NYU Abu Dhabi, and the work they have done over the past decade in building a world-class liberal arts campus," the letter read. "But, we also want to make clear that, since a member of our faculty has been prohibited from teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Carter Journalism Institute is not prepared to continue its relationship with NYUAD."
The letter echoed the professors' belief that the university's response thus far has been inadequate.
"It is our deep wish that you and your administration do everything in your power to convince the authorities in Abu Dhabi to grant Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian visas and correct this situation," the department wrote. "Denying two members of the university's faculty the ability to teach at NYUAD is harmful to our community and inimical to our values."
Similarly, the Gallatin School of Individualized Studies urged their faculty to avoid the Abu Dhabi campus in a resolution passed earlier this week.
"We, the faculty of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, believe the issues raised by the Middle East and Islamic Studies faculty in their letter are gravely concerning and go to the heart of NYU's academic mission and its presence in the world," the resolution began. "We are disappointed in President Andrew Hamilton's response to these concerns thus far."
Gallatin's statement went on to "support MEIS's call for NYU's leadership to address these issues seriously."
"Until it does so," the resolution continued, "we too feel compelled to call onNYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi..."
Reached for comment, Matt Nagel, NYU Managing Director of Public Affairs, said that President Hamilton "shares the faculty's concerns" regarding the "troubling denial of visas to Professors Bazzi and Keshavarzian," but disagrees with the department's reaction.
"As he wrote in his letter to faculty in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies department, President Hamilton believes that refraining from participating in the academic life of NYU Abu Dhabi misses the mark," Nagel stated. "Doing so only punishes our fellow students and faculty there, who had no hand in the visa denial."
"Moreover," the statement read, "he believes that the presence of NYU in Abu Dhabi contributes to the diversity of ideas there, and that the NYUAD project should be a source of pride to the University."
The Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute's full letter is below:
"Dear President Hamilton,
November 2, 2017
"We, the majority of senior members of the Carter Journalism Institute faculty at New York University, are writing to express our dismay at the United Arab Emirates government's decision to deny security clearances and work visas to one of our faculty members, Prof. Mohamad Bazzi, and to our colleague from the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Prof. Arang Keshavarzian, who is also a tenured faculty member at NYU. Prof. Bazzi was scheduled to teach at New York University Abu Dhabi this fall. We have not been given an explanation for the denial of these visas, but if it was for reasons of religious affiliation (Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian are of Shiite origin) or because of our colleagues' writing and research, it would represent a significant threat to academic freedom on that campus. This episode also threatens the best values that NYU aspires to in building a "Global Network University," in which students and faculty can teach, study and collaborate across campuses.
We have the utmost respect for our faculty colleagues and students at NYU Abu Dhabi, and the work they have done over the past decade in building a world-class liberal arts campus. But we also want to make clear that, since a member of our faculty has been prohibited from teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Carter Journalism Institute is not prepared to continue its relationship with NYUAD. Our faculty, a number of whose members have made the trip to NYUAD or taught courses there, voted unanimously at its last meeting to suspend the Institute's participation in the academic program in Abu Dhabi until these issues are satisfactorily resolved.
It is our deep wish that you and your administration do everything in your power to convince the authorities in Abu Dhabi to grant Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian visas and correct this situation. We are impressed that you, as president of our university, have spoken out publicly against the Trump administration's pernicious immigration policies, especially as they affect our students and faculty. However, many members of our faculty have been disappointed that you have not spoken out publicly against these visa denials in Abu Dhabi, where the university has had many dealings with the government and where a senior government official sits on NYU's Board of Trustees. Denying two members of the university's faculty the ability to teach at NYUAD is harmful to our community and inimical to our values.
We very much hope this matter can be resolved and that Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian will soon be able to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi. Resolving this problem will make our university stronger. We look forward to working with you to achieve that."
Gallatin's full resolution is below:
"We, the faculty of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, believe the issues raised by the Middle East and Islamic Study's faculty in their letter are gravely concerning and go to the heart of NYU's academic mission and its presence in the world. We are disappointed in President Andrew Hamilton's response to these concerns thus far. Accordingly, we support MEIS's call for NYU's leadership to address these issues seriously; until it does so, we too feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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