View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sexton Raises New York University’s Flag Over Abu Dhabi and UAE

John Sexton is determined to transform New York University into the first truly global university with its Abu Dhabi flagship becoming an ‘Honors College’ but John Gravois’s detailed essay in The National raises some intriguing questions.

Sextin is an inveterate hugger who hugs pretty much everyone he meets, so how will he curb his tendencies and greet his Abu Dhabi students who have grown up in a non-touching culture?

How culturally grounded will Sexton’s classes be, as the commuting New Yorker flies in from Manhattan to Abu Dhabi each fortnight to teach his students?

If Sexton is seeking students who fit into the top 1 percent of the global talent pool for his “most intellectually rigorous” institution to rival Ivy League universities, why will the initial classes of the Abu Dhabi branch be comprised of only 5 percent Emirati students?

How is it possible for NYU Abu Dhabi to operate outside the supervision of the UAE Ministry of Education and to what extent will this decision make NYU-AD a cultural and educational island?

If NYU Abu Dhabi is beyond the reach of the UAE’s MOE, does this mean that gay students will be permitted to enroll as they can on the New York campus, even though homosexual practice is illegal in the Emirates?

Will the Abu Dhabi Campus be above the UAE law when it comes to a discussion of views on Islam, the separation of mosque and state, the evaluation of the local form of government, the questioning of censorship and the advocating of anything that is ‘inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates.’

The compromise negotiated by Sexton to greet his 13 female and 3 male students with a Barack and Michelle Obama fist-bump would be considered haram (forbidden) between people of the opposite sex in UAE educational institutions, most of which are completely segregated. It will be interesting to monitor the development of NYU Abu Dhabi after the initial fist-bumping is over.

Link to the ‘most read’ article (at least today) in The National:
John Gravois, Make No Little Plans-Part 1, The National, 17 July 2009.

NY University Abu Dhabi Has Not Clarified Human Rights Issues, ETE, 19 November 2007.
President Bloom Appointed to New York University Abu Dhabi Campus, ETE, 30 September 2008.

Check It Out
Check out the new site America’s Cup in the UAE.

Dr Geoff Pound

Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at) on Facebook and Twitter.

Image: Dr John Sexton.