Following the denial of visas to two tenured members of NYU's faculty who were scheduled to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi in 2017-18, members of the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute wrote President Andrew Hamilton a letter expressing their concerns. President Hamilton's reply and the letter from Carter Institute faculty members are below.
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Dear Faculty Colleagues,
I am aware of your understandable concerns over the denial of visas to two tenured members of our faculty scheduled to teach this year in Abu Dhabi. Accordingly, I thought I would take this moment to address the issues.
The denial of visas to Professors Bazzi and Keshavarzian is deeply troubling. It is my view that they should be in Abu Dhabi leading the classes they were appointed to teach.
By any measure, NYU Abu Dhabi has proven itself an academic success - though less than a decade old, it has attracted distinguished faculty from leading institutions, and produced Rhodes Scholars and graduates who have gone on to top graduate schools, professional schools, and employers. It has also provided an education to students from around the world, many of whom would not otherwise have had the opportunity for a top rate liberal arts experience. NYU Abu Dhabi is one of the most diverse academic communities in the world, with students and faculty from more than 115 countries. The character of classroom teaching and discussion there would be entirely familiar to faculty here. Its research success puts it in the vanguard of research institutions in the region. This is enviable, and we should not lose sight of it.
That notwithstanding, these visa denials are troubling; I understand that. I understand, too, that faculty are concerned that the nature of our relationship with our Abu Dhabi partners may have led us to respond differently to the visa denials than we did to changes in U.S. immigration policy. From my standpoint, however, there is a distinction to be drawn between how we handle individual cases and how we handle public policy proposals. However, the University should – and, will – have clear, transparent protocols for dealing with the denial of visas for students or faculty.
There has been a great deal of speculation about why the visas were denied. It is unlikely that we shall know the answer, and the absence of an explanation gives rise to the most concerning kind of speculation. So, let me reaffirm NYU's and my commitment to academic freedom, to faculty pursuing their scholarship, to teaching, and the free flow of scholars, and my categorical rejection of basing any decisions on a person's religion, race, or other protected categories. (It is notable that the NYUAD community is also home to students and faculty representing many religions and cultures, including those who identify as Shi’a, Sunni, Jewish, and Christian.)
In closing, let me reply to those schools and departments that proposed to disengage or consider disengaging with NYU Abu Dhabi. It is difficult to find the correct response here. But I believe the call to refrain from engagement is misplaced, not because the issue is not serious, but because it misses the mark, punishing students and faculty at NYU Abu Dhabi over a visa decision in which they had no hand and with which they disagree.
Dear President Hamilton,
We, the majority of senior members of the Carter Journalism Institute faculty at New York University, are writing to express our dismay at the United Arab Emirates government’s decision to deny security clearances and work visas to one of our faculty members, Prof. Mohamad Bazzi, and to our colleague from the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Prof. Arang Keshavarzian, who is also a tenured faculty member at NYU. Prof. Bazzi was scheduled to teach at New York University Abu Dhabi this fall. We have not been given an explanation for the denial of these visas, but if it was for reasons of religious affiliation (Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian are of Shiite origin) or because of our colleagues’ writing and research, it would represent a significant threat to academic freedom on that campus. This episode also threatens the best values that NYU aspires to in building a “Global Network University,” in which students and faculty can teach, study and collaborate across campuses.
We have the utmost respect for our faculty colleagues and students at NYU Abu Dhabi, and the work they have done over the past decade in building a world-class liberal arts campus. But we also want to make clear that, since a member of our faculty has been prohibited from teaching at NYU Abu Dhabi, the Carter Journalism Institute is not prepared to continue its relationship with NYUAD. Our faculty, a number of whose members have made the trip to NYUAD or taught courses there, voted unanimously at its last meeting to suspend the Institute’s participation in the academic program in Abu Dhabi until these issues are satisfactorily resolved.
It is our deep wish that you and your administration do everything in your power to convince the authorities in Abu Dhabi to grant Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian visas and correct this situation. We are impressed that you, as president of our university, have spoken out publicly against the Trump administration’s pernicious immigration policies, especially as they affect our students and faculty. However, many members of our faculty have been disappointed that you have not spoken out publicly against these visa denials in Abu Dhabi, where the university has had many dealings with the government and where a senior government official sits on NYU’s Board of Trustees. Denying two members of the university’s faculty the ability to teach at NYUAD is harmful to our community and inimical to our values.
We very much hope this matter can be resolved and that Profs. Bazzi and Keshavarzian will soon be able to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi. Resolving this problem will make our university stronger. We look forward to working with you to achieve that.