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Archive for September, 2010

Where do people go for information?

I’m constantly befuddled by the fact that there are so many universities here (nearly all of them ‘world class’) yet so little information circulating among the academic crowd.

Today, after weeks of low activity on the Chronicle’s Academics in the Middle East subforum, I finally saw a question posted by a potential newcomer to the UAE.  What I feel like saying in response is something along the lines of “good luck getting an answer to your query,” but I probably won’t respond at all.  The one alternative to the underutilised Chronicle forum is Dave’s ESL Café, which seems unfortunately discouraging to most newcomers and in any case is focussed on the Teaching-English-as-a-Second-Language scene, not academia per se.  There’s the AbuDhabiWoman discussion board, but it’s populated more with people wondering where to find an OB/Gyn or going to battle over questions of faith than it is with those interested in the tertiary education employment scene.

So where in the world do people go when they have questions (and judging by my stats, there are TONS of questions, mostly about compensation packages and working conditions) about academic careers in the UAE?  Where do they go when they want to discuss the issues of grading, academic dishonesty, student performance, educational standards, etc?  Where do they do their networking?

Thoughts welcome.

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NYUAD, Blank Slates, and Hubris

In her 13 September article Washington Square News article, NYU Abu Dhabi: the story from concept to classroom, Jane Timm offers us further insight on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.  Actually, a lot of it sounds like everything I’ve read before, but one section stood out:

The tabula rasa
Sitting in the cafe at the NYUAD center during Candidate’s Weekend, I had a moment to talk with Sexton alone.  “We can bring people from New York and unleash them here to create an ideal world,” Sexton said. “The mandate is excellence.”

Later in the same section, Timm writes that “In Abu Dhabi, NYU was given a blank slate — the funding and means to build an ideal school.”

So which is it, Miss Timm?  A blank slate or a blank cheque?  These mean two very different things.

The first term can be taken as a metaphor for ignorance, with the implication that Abu Dhabi is somehow in need of nurturing or education (by New Yorkers, apparently) in order to reach its “ideal” potential.  That it very much may be, but I probably wouldn’t be shouting it very loudly in the official NYU newspaper.

I think what Timm (and Sexton) really meant to convey was the blank-slatedness of the NYU Abu Dhabi project, not of Abu Dhabi itself — although further down in the article there is another worrying section on political protesting headed with the words “Take back Abu Dhabi.”  It’s clear this is a reference to a Take Back NYU campaign of a while ago, but again, the implication is that someone from New York needs to come over here and straighten out the emirate’s political climate.

I’d like to think that these connotations of presumptuousness are just a possible interpretation of Timm’s words and that all she (or NYUAD) is really guilty of is poor word choice and vagueness of references.  But with all the unknowns surrounding NYU’s latest project, I would urge taking more care with one’s words.

Or just count on most people not having read Aristotle.

References:

Timm, J.C. (13 Sept 2010). NYU Abu Dhabi: the story from concept to classroom.  Washington Square News. Retrieved (14 Sept 2010) from http://nyunews.com/news/2010/09/13/13abudhabi/

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Don’t forget to do your homework

As the Fall 2010 academic term nears, I expect most fresh hires have already arrived in the desert and are busy sorting out their new lives.  And judging by my blog stats, one of the things they’re doing is googling madly for information on salary packages and housing allowances at a number of local universities.

If you’ve already accepted a job offer and have been brave enough to see it through, this is rather like doing your homework the day after your report card was sent — in other words, a little on the late side.  But there’s another possibility:  you’re already here and have gotten a last-minute offer from XYZ University because some other newbie didn’t show (perhaps a natural result of having done his homework).  In the first case, I’m afraid Expatacademic can’t help you out — the information you’re looking for has been here for a while and if you’ve accepted an offer without doing your research, I question the likelihood of your success in academia.  In the second case, however, I refer you to previous posts in the Compensation and Employment categories.

Good luck.  Those of you who haven’t done your homework are gonna need it.

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And they’re off…

With ramadan set to end in a day or two and eid over early next week, it’s back to school time here in the desert.  And nobody seems prouder of that fact than NYU Abu Dhabi (and its students) who seem to think the world is actually interested in how many hours they’re counting down to wheels up.

In some of these blogs, written by both faculty and students (you can tell the difference because the faculty know the difference between their, there, and they’re), I keep reading words like ‘historic undertaking’, ‘pioneers’ (admittedly, this term was used in a news article first), ‘Great Work’, and so forth.

Come ON, folks — this is about an American university opening up a branch campus with little or no financial risk, not a moon landing.  It may be the case that NYU Abu Dhabi will realise its mission in the years to come, and I’ll happily applaud its success, but let’s not go overboard on the trumpet blowing.

For a taste of NYUAD blogging, see:

http://patell.org/2010/08/let-the-great-work-begin/

http://lesserscholar.blogspot.com/

http://parallellifeabudhabi.blogspot.com/

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