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Sorry, folks, I just couldn’t resist.  Among some of the other drivel I’ve read in the comment section of Charlie Eisenhood’s recent blog piece on the Al Ghaith detainment, this bit (by Observor  [sic] #2) stood out:

Researching and writing an article about political reform, or about the disadvantages of autocratic regimes etc is totally fine (depending on how you go about your research).
Getting it peer-reviewed by NYUAD faculty and students happens without a problem.
Discussing it and debating it with [sic] amongst ourselves is 100% acceptable.

(Read more: UAE Detains Prominent Professor, Raising Questions About Academic Freedom At NYUAD · NYU Local http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2011/04/12/uae-detains-prominent-professor-raising-questions-about-academic-freedom-at-nyuad/#ixzz1KL4BwMTT
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution)

Are the freshman students at NYUAD really researching, writing, and peer-reviewing articles?  Already?

I guess they’re even cleverer than we thought…

References:

Eisenhood, Charlie. (12 April 2011). NYUlocal.com. UAE detains prominent professor, raising questions about academic freedom at NYUAD. Retrieved (22 April 2011) from http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2011/04/12/uae-detains-prominent-professor-raising-questions-about-academic-freedom-at-nyuad/

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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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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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Apples and oranges

Today in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Naomi Schaefer Riley discusses the ups and downs of start-up universities, once again comparing NYU Abu Dhabi to MSU Dubai:

The comparison with Michigan State is not perfect. It was receiving most of its funds from the home institution, and it is a less prestigious brand. (Riley, 1 August 2010)

The comparison, from my perspective, is far from perfect.  Whatever the potential problems may be at NYU Abu Dhabi, we need to cease comparing it to other branch campuses in the area (GMU RAK, MSU Dubai, RIT Dubai, for example) for one very important reason:  the students are likely to be completely different than those at any other American tertiary institution that has pitched a tent in the UAE (and by ‘American university’, I don’t mean American University of Sharjah, American University of Dubai, or American University of Ras Al Khaimah).

Although I don’t have data on the full-time student demographics at other branch campuses, it seems very unlikely that US citizens constitute anything approaching the 37% that they will at NYU Abu Dhabi.  So far, the only information I’ve been able to dig up on the student body at MSU Dubai is the university’s own claim that “MSU Dubai students are from North America to South Africa and beyond. The entering class represented citizens from 24 different countries” (MSU Dubai, n.d.).  To the extent there are Americans studying at RIT Dubai, it may be the case that they visit on a semester basis from the home campus in Rochester.  And as for the erstwhile students at GMU RAK, well…

If any readers have detailed information from reliable sources on the student body make-up at US branch campuses over here, please feel free to comment.  Until then, you’ll have to wait for ExpatAcademic to figure out how to make some discreet phone calls.

References:

Michigan State University Dubai. (n.d.) Frequently asked questions. Retrieved (17 July 2010) from http://dubai.msu.edu/faq

Riley, Naomi S. (1 August 2010). The lure, and the risks, of starting a university. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved (1 August 2010) from http://chronicle.com/article/The-Lurethe-Risks-of/123724/

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Oh. My. God.

I’ve heard of hyperbole, but this week’s snippet from Abu Dhabi Week takes the cake:

Abu Dhabi is on par with the Ivy League.  The students forming the inaugural class of NYU Abu Dhabi will be some of the most stringently selected in the world.  Of the over 9000 applicants submitted to the UAE campus, which will open for the first time this fall, only 189 were chosen making it considerably more selective than the university’s New York campus which admits about 30 percent. (AbuDhabiWeek.ae, 2010)

Let’s look at that first sentence:

“Abu Dhabi is on par with the Ivy League.”

This is sort of like saying (no, wait, it’s exactly like saying) that New Haven, Connecticut is “on par with the Ivy League.”  Or maybe it’s like saying “Abu Dhabi is on par with New Haven.”  Either way you look at it, this is one of the single stupidest sentences I’ve read (counting some of the stuff in my students’ essays). First, cities are not in the Ivy League.  Second, even if they were, I doubt Abu Dhabi would actually want to compare itself to Yale’s hometown.  But I digress.

(While I don’t want this to turn into an NYUADcentric blog, I’m a bit handicapped by the fact that NYUAD seems to be dominating the news lately, so please bear with me.  I promise I’ll get back to reporting on those sackings over at HCT as soon as possible.)

But in the meantime, let’s look at the numbers again and examine what I’ll call the Fallacy of the Excluded Information:  ‘over 9000 applications submitted to the UAE campus.’  And let’s ask why there were so many applicants. Could it have something to do with the generous financial aid packages that NYUAD is offering?

Our aim is to attract the best possible students regardless of your financial circumstances. If you are admitted, our priority is to work with you and your family to make it possible for you to attend. NYU Abu Dhabi will tailor our generous financial support programs to your individual needs. Financial support will ensure that the cost of attendance does not require you or your family to take on debt to support the cost of your education. Your family’s finances should not affect your decision to select NYU Abu Dhabi even if you are considering low or no cost public education alternatives or are the recipient of generous financial support from another institution. (NYU, n.d.)

Here are the estimated costs of attending NYU Abu Dhabi (NYU, n.d.). Note they’re the same as for the home campus in New York.  (Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to start breathing again after you’ve read them.)

Tuition and mandatory fees $40,277
Health Insurance $2,170
School-based fees $500
Room and board (meals) $13,557
Books and supplies $950
Personal expenses $2,000
Transportation $3,000
Total estimated cost $62,454

Now NYU hasn’t released any official figures on how many students are getting how much, but the press over the past year or so seems to indicate that a full ride for students attending the Abu Dhabi campus is well within the realm of possibility.  Even the first hint of fully covered tuition, fees, and expenses to families with income below 80,000 USD (Eisenhood, 28.4.2009) sounded juicy, but when double that threshold was reported a few days later (Eisenhood, 30.4.2009), I imagine that more than a few college-bound seniors (and their parents) were paying attention.

Let’s think for a minute about what this information means to an analysis of those high applicant figures and shockingly low acceptance rates.  Actually, I don’t imagine any of us have to think very hard:  imagine seeing the following on your NYU application:

__ Yes, I’m interested in NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus.
__ No, I’m not interested in NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus.

Now let’s translate those sentences:

__ Yes, I’m interested in saving a quarter million dollars.
__ No thanks, I’d rather fork over the quarter million myself or take out some loans that I’ll never be able to repay.

Anybody still wondering why nine thousand people were interested in NYUAD?

References:

AbuDhabiWeek. (30 June 2010). Higher league NYU. AbuDhabiWeek. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://www.abudhabiweek.ae/city-latest/1-news/2880-higher-league-nyu-

Eisenhood, C. (28 April 2009). NYU Abu Dhabi: Financials. NYU Local. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2009/04/28/nyu-abu-dhabi-financials/

Eisenhood, C. (30 April 2009). NYU Abu Dhabi: Financial aid significantly greater than first estimated. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://nyulocal.com/on-campus/2009/04/30/nyu-abu-dhabi-financial-aid-significantly-greater-than-first-estimated/

New York University. (n.d.). NYU Abu Dhabi – Financial aid and financial support. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://nyuad.nyu.edu/admissions/financial.support.html

New York University. (n.d.). Estimated costs for NYU Abu Dhabi. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://nyuad.nyu.edu/admissions/costs.html

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It took a while (and I mean days, but I found what I was looking for:  the country-of-origin information on NYU Abu Dhabi’s incoming freshman class.

Last week, in my post titled NYU Abu Dhabi and the numbers game, I speculated that there were potentially as few as four students in the Class of 2014 from each of the ‘next [to the US] most popular countries’.

Second, the press release tells us that about a third of the incoming class is from the USA while the next most popular countries of residence (origin?) are the UAE, China, Hungary, and Russia.  This rather makes it seem as though there will be lots of Emiratis, Chinese, Hungarians, and Russians in the Class of 2014, but in fact it’s mathmatically possible that a maximum of four students from each of these other “most popular countries” will be in the entering class.  (150 total minus 50 US = 100; 100 – 16 “other most popular” country students = 84 remaining spaces;  34 other countries from students to come from means 34 * x = 84, where x < 4)

Apparently, my math wasn’t far off.  Inside HigherEd’s recent piece on NYUAD has provided the list I’d been looking for, at least for the most highly-represented countries of origin and citizenship:

Region % of Student Body
by Residence
Region % of Student Body
by Citizenship
USA 36 USA 37
Middle East 14 Middle East 12
UAE 8 UAE 5
China 6 Hungary 5
Hungary 5 South Korea 5
Russia 4 China 4
Russia 4
Pakistan 4
(Redden, 2010)

And given the incoming class size of 150 students, we can translate these percentages into actual numbers of students:

Region # of Students
by Residence
Region # of Students
by Citizenship
USA 54 USA 56
Middle East 21 Middle East 18
UAE 12 UAE 8
China 9 Hungary 8
Hungary 8 South Korea 8
Russia 6 China 6
Russia 6
Pakistan 6

I don’t have any specific comments on this, but it’s nice to know that I can still see through the media haze targeted at the analytically-challenged.

References:

Redden, E. (21 June 2010). The world’s honors college? Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved (3 July 2010) from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/focus/admissions/recent/nyu

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The recent write-up on NYU’s selectivity in The Chronicle (New York U.’s Abu Dhabi campus to start with academically elite class) has spurred fewer reader comments than the article in The New York Times, but some of them are just as negative.  And a few are so passionately negative that they fail to command sufficient reader respect.

I won’t spend (too much) time lambasting the idiocy of certain commenters, but I will address a number of the issues that have been brought up regarding the safety and quality of life of the NYUAD students-to-be:

  • “Women are not treated well in that area” [my emphasis]
    Uh huh.  I suspect this was written by someone who hasn’t a clue that the middle east isn’t one great big unified country.  Yes, it’s true that there are places in the MENA region where I would not suggest setting foot under any conditions, whatever one’s gender.  The UAE is not in that list (I’m here, after all, aren’t I?).  Women are treated just fine in this part of the desert.  No one is forced to wear an abaya (muslim or not); females can freely wander without fear of being accosted (sure, the bachelors from Kerala stare a bit, but that’s entirely understandable); there are no restrictions on driving, owning a business, working, etc.  So, mums and dads, please don’t worry about your little girl being mistreated.  She’ll be just fine.

  • “[There are] social and cultural rules that these students will be expected to adhere to”
    Ok, Abu Dhabi ain’t Rio, so I can tell you right now that if topless sunbathing is your bag, you’ll be sorely disappointed.  And it’s a major faux pas (even for non-muslims) to eat, drink, and chew gum in public during daylight hours in the month of Ramadan.  Oh, and having sex on the beach is probably not a good idea (nor are any heavy public displays of affection).  Other than those ‘rules’, however, I’m racking my brain trying to come up with another example of a social/cultural restriction imposed on the western expats here.  [five-minute break while I think about this] Nope, sorry, can’t do it.
  • “How will NYU handle the lesbian professors who would dare to hold hands in public and then in jail [sic]”
    I think this comment has to do with tolerance of homosexuality and not with incarcerated lesbians holding hands in their cell — it’s rather hard to tell since the commenter seems to be on a bit of a rant, so I’ll just address the tolerance part.  Well, the fact is, public sexual behaviour of any kind is frowned on (and even criminalised), and minds here are sufficiently closed that homosexuality just isn’t going to be accepted.  (Of course it’s not really accepted in the US armed forces either, but that doesn’t stop lesbians and gays from signing up and keeping a low profile.)  The fact is that NYU isn’t forcing students, faculty, or staff to be part of the Abu Dhabi Adventure, and Abu Dhabi isn’t The Village.  So if you happen to be gay, you have what we call a choice:  come on over and keep your behaviour on the QT, or head to one of a thousand other cities that won’t put a hamper on your sexual prefs.
    For the record, however, NYUAD has stated that its campus will exist in a protected environment.  Oops, I guess the commenter didn’t read this one. Tsk tsk.  [Warning to the idiotic:  don’t get into a research battle with me.]

NYU’s campus will exist in a legal bubble, within which many of the emirate’s more controversial laws and regulations will be lifted. For example, in Abu Dhabi, Skype and websites deemed to conflict with the state’s values are blocked; within NYU’s campus borders, the internet will be unrestricted.  Similarly, Abu Dhabi’s contentious restrictions on homosexuality – current laws prescribe the death penalty for sodomy – will be lifted on the new campus. Students on campus will also have absolute academic freedom, something other Emirati do not have. (Timm, 2009)

  • “do tell us about the shops selling JDL (Jewish Defense League) and Star-of-David T-shirts”
    Nope, can’t help you here, any more than I could help someone start an after-mass atheist club at Holy Comforter Catholic Church.  But while Israeli passport-holders aren’t admitted to the UAE (unless they come in on a different passport), this does not mean there aren’t any Jews in Abu Dhabi.  So if you are Jewish, while you might not find those JDL souvenirs, know that you also likely won’t be persecuted and you won’t be alone:

There were no reports of societal abuses based on religion; however, some discrimination existed, and anti-Semitism was present in the media.
There were no synagogues for the small foreign Jewish population in residence. Anti-Semitism was apparent in news articles and editorial cartoons depicting negative images of Jews. These expressions occurred primarily in daily newspapers without government response. (US Dept. of State, 2009)

  • “How will NYU inform young female students that female child prostitution is rampant and that they need to be mindful to not talk to strangers who might turn out to be pimps trafficking in ‘girls’ for dates with UAE ‘men’?”
    Oh dear.  This is fearmongering at its best (or worst).  Mums and dads, please don’t take this seriously.  Yes, there is prostitution here, like there is everywhere, including New York City.  Yes, there is crime, including rape — again, just as there is everywhere else in the world.  But to imply that the UAE is a hotbed of child prostitution or that your young daughter is going to be sold as a sexual toy is just over the top.  She’ll be just fine.

The bottom line is that NYU Abu Dhabi will be in, well, Abu Dhabi.  Not San Francisco, not New York City, not Provincetown.  As such, it will be different, and NYU has a duty to inform and support its incoming freshman class (and that class, in turn, has an obligation to do a little of its own homework before making the decision to attend).  What the university doesn’t have is an obligation to turn Abu Dhabi into anything other than it is.

References:

Mills, A. (21 June 2010). New York U.’s Abu Dhabi campus to start with academically elite class. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved (29 June 2010) from http://chronicle.com/article/New-York-Us-Abu-Dhabi-Cam/66005/

Timm, J. (22 April 2009). University opening up on NYUAD after year of few details. NYUNews.com. Retrieved (29 June 2010) from http://nyunews.com/2009/04/22/8/

U.S. Department of State (2009). 2009 Human Rights Report: United Arab Emirates. Retrieved (29 June 2010) from http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/nea/136082.htm

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