In the 21st century, higher education confronts two choices: engagement with the world, or disengagement. NYU has made a choice: we're going to engage the world. We have made a choice to educate students and conduct research in countries that have customs and laws different from those in the US, where NYU was founded nearly 200 years ago. We believe that's the right choice because it will allow us to provide a top education to students who otherwise wouldn't get an NYU education. We believe it's the right choice because we have faith the American liberal arts education can work and thrive even in countries with different laws and individual liberties. We believe it is the right choice because it has allowed NYU Abu Dhabi to attract an incredibly diverse group of the most talented young people in the world, and by educating them together, to prepare for leadership roles in a highly global 21st century.
A guarantee of academic freedom was an indispensable premise of NYU opening a campus in Abu Dhabi; it remains a commitment between NYU and our Abu Dhabi partners. The repeated critiques of academic freedom at NYU Abu Dhabi are poorly founded. Academic freedom is not defined by the immigration policy of the country in which a university is located; it is defined by what happens in the classroom, in academic discussions and events, in the lab, and in the library, and in those settings, academic freedom is operating fully at NYU Abu Dhabi, as the students and faculty there have said repeatedly, though their voices tend to be ignored and the critics' voices, for whatever reason, tend to be believed.
Our years of successfully operating comprehensive liberal arts research university campuses outside the US have demonstrated the reverse of what the critics claim: that day in and day out, our students and faculty can carry on a full and unfettered academic program without concern.
With regard to the Hedges case: NYU’s president has stated publicly that he had discussed the matter with senior officials in Abu Dhabi ahead of its resolution.
As to entry into countries: NYU supports scholarly mobility. It is concerning to us when any member of our community is unable to travel to an intended destination for academic purposes (though, I should note that Prof. Ross' intended trip to the UAE some years ago was entirely unconnected to NYU Abu Dhabi -- he was not scheduled to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi or conduct research there or participate in an academic event. No one knew he was coming, and he notified no one at the University of his plans to travel to the UAE until after he was prevented from flying there). But whether a country permits or denies entry to someone is not the same thing as academic freedom. Let me point out that when we have had scholars or expected participants in academic events prevented from coming to the US, no one has questioned academic freedom at the New York campus... When our scholars or students encounter difficulties, we raise the issues with the proper authorities -- that's true whether it is someone from the US or elsewhere traveling to Abu Dhabi, or whether it is someone traveling to the US from elsewhere, because that happens, too. Sometimes we're successful, and sometimes not. The reality is that cross-border scholarly mobility will always be one of the complexities and challenges of trying to do higher education in a global environment. That does not mean we should give up on global higher education.
As to Professor Minsky -- we regret that any of her course materials were held up for even a moment. But I am sure she would acknowledge to you that the textbooks for her course, were, in fact, ultimately delivered to her in Abu Dhabi.
It comes down to this: NYU believes that liberal arts education is tenacious and sturdy and prospers globally; it is not a hothouse flower suited only for a few, particular societies. It may not be easy, it may be challenging, and it may be complex, but we are certain that our global academic presence means more freedom of thought, not less.
Senior Vice President for Public Affairs and Strategic Communications
New York University