NYU AAUP Chapter Letter to NYU President About Further Academic Freedom Violations at NYU Abu Dhabi

Last Updated : Mon 19th December 2016 10:28pm

NYU AAUP Chapter Letter to NYU President About Further Academic Freedom Violations  at NYU Abu Dhabi: 

December 19, 2016

Dear President Hamilton:

We, the officers of the NYU-AAUP chapter, are writing to express our strong concern about the revelation, as published in a New York Times op-ed article, that Kristina Bogos, a former NYU student, was spied on by GCC government sources, and barred from entry into the UAE and Qatar. The evidence she presents is that these punitive measures were imposed because of the published research she did in the course of her semester abroad at NYU Abu Dhabi. By any criteria, the treatment of Bogos is a gross violation of the AAUP’s basic principles of academic freedom as observed by NYU and as adopted at the inauguration of NYUAD.

Bogos, now a Masters’ student at Georgetown University, was traveling for the first time to Qatar to do academic research when she was barred entry. But she reports that, since the GCC countries share a blacklist of persons judged to be “security threats,” she was added to the list by the UAE authorities. We have since learned from Bogos that she was not allowed to board a flight to Doha with a layover in Dubai, so it is safe to conclude that she has also been banned from traveling to the UAE.

Hers is the second NYU case involving violations of academic freedom in Abu Dhabi. In 2015, Professor Andrew Ross was banned from entering the UAE to do academic research on labor conditions there. It is also likely that he was spied upon by a private investigator tied to the UAE, again based on reports published in the New York Times. The NYU administration’s failure to fully address his ban has left a cloud hanging over the institution, and has sent a chilling message to our colleagues in Abu Dhabi that there is little the university can do to protect them if their research is deemed unacceptable by the Emirati authorities.

The retaliatory actions taken against Bogos are even more egregious. As a young scholar, she pursued her academic research in Abu Dhabi in the belief that her rights were sheltered under NYU’s agreements with its Emirati partner. This belief was shattered after she suffered considerable harm when her email account was hacked and her mobility restricted. Consequently, her academic career has been sabotaged—she can no longer access the location of her field work in Qatar. Again, what kind of daunting message does this send to her and to our students who are traveling to study at NYU’s global sites?

Regrettably, the barring of entry into the GCC and the investigation of those who research and write on labor conditions there are common forms of harassment of academics, journalists, and human rights researchers. Academic research on labor conditions in the UAE and Qatar is increasingly restricted, if not explicitly discouraged, through limitations placed at the level of Human Subjects review boards. Low-wage migrant workers are thus further isolated. Bound by their recruitment debts and by the strictures of the kafala system, they labor under threat of arrest and deportation if they protest their conditions. The violations of their labor rights and human rights should not be overshadowed by the treatment of Bogos (and Ross). Indeed, in a recent report, NYU’s Coalition for Fair Labor has drawn attention to the continuing failure to institute adequate protections for workers associated with construction and maintenance at the NYUAD site.    

Yet both the banning and the investigation of Bogos (and Ross) have serious implications for the state of academic freedom at NYU. We feel strongly that it is incumbent upon you to clarify the university’s position by condemning publicly these bans and the use of surveillance techniques to spy on and thwart the careers of valued members of the NYU community. We urge you to mediate with NYU’s Emirati partners to lift the bans on both Bogos and Ross. A successful collaboration with the UAE or any other foreign entity demands that all parties adhere to the basic principles of academic freedom that are a requirement for meaningful scholarship.

Sincerely,

Andrew Ross, president, NYU-AAUP

Molly Nolan, vice-president, NYU-AAUP

Marie Monaco, secretary, NYU-AAUP

Anna McCarthy, treasurer, NYU-AAUP

Paula Chakravartty, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP

Rebecca Karl, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP

Stephen Duncombe, at-large executive member, NYU-AAUP