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Letter of Support for the Centering of the Global Network on Notions of Transparency and Equity

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The current articulation of the Global Network within New York University has been primarily articulated by the Administration, the most senior level of the academic dimension of NYU (e.g. Deans, certain Faculty), and the Provost(s), and the Board of Trustees. This letter is a first attempt to compile and state the position of Student Government and student leadership otherwise with regards to our philosophies and perceptions as it pertains to the Global Network. This first requires a general overview of that which has already been articulated.

The Global Network, interchangeable with “Global,” is the shorthand with which all of us across the University use to refer to the complex interplay of University Life offices, faculty groups, schools, colleges, and student groups (whether government or club life) across NYU’s three portal campuses and various study away sites. 

We recognize that NYU decided years ago to “give the highest priority” to “secure its place in that group” of “truly great research universities in the world.”[1] Global exists, it is real, and it cannot be undone. We reject any and all proposals that the Global Network must somehow cease to exist. The only merit such a notion would have would be in the event that the condition of the world order, whether intrastate or interstate war or conflict, would result in a substantial danger to the faculty, administration, and students in a given portal campus or study away site; this is an extreme scenario we hope won’t come to pass.

This, however, points to the central problem with the University’s administration-centric articulation of the Global Network, for we “must continue to recognize the need for periodic reassessment and reexamination.”[2] We must work together to formulate, articulate, and promulgate the larger University’s mission and vision collaboratively with Students, Administrators, and Faculty. These three groups together are the substance and lifeblood of the institution.

The discursive issues of note:

  1. It has been stated by both Faculty[3] and Administration[4] members that NYU Abu Dhabi, and indeed the Global Network itself, was an “experiment” of placing a “liberal”/“liberal arts” institution in a space that was understood either implicitly or explicitly as not liberal and devoid of a notion of liberal arts. This notion carries with it the understanding that what we understand as “Liberal Arts” (today a combination of science, technology, engineering, math, social sciences, philosophy, language, and more) did not exist in non-Western societies and that Western Enlightenment Liberalism (particularly along the Anglo-Germanic discursive genealogy) is to be understood as inherently good and a universal standard to which all societies must strive.

This is intellectually dishonest, colonialist, and implicitly makes students little more than variables in an experiment run by faculty and administrators. This articulation must cease.

  1. It has been articulated, and indeed was promised naively, that were would be a “flow” or “free movement”[5] of ideas and persons throughout the Global Network[6] and a parallel promise of complete academic freedom throughout the university. These two notions are colloquially understood, particularly by students unfamiliar with other cultures and peoples, that it is a promise that any student (or member of the university otherwise) may exist in any place throughout the Global Network and moreover engage intellectually and communally in a manner that is true to their most authentic self.

This is inaccurate. Not only are there political realities in place that block any member of this university from going to any location within the Global Network, there are likewise social, cultural, and material realities that prevent this as well. Whether it is the inability of queer and trans students to exist as such in a number of locations, or students with certain national or religious backgrounds being unable to freely move everywhere, students of certain racial and ethnic identities likewise being unable or it being unwise, or economic class realities that make this degree of mobility untenable, there is no perfect free flow of ideas or persons throughout the world. As NYU is indeed in and of the world, this notion simply does not exist and cannot exist within our university as it does not exist in the world. Moreover, at this point it is important to note that this dynamic is usually with a gaze fixed to the Study Away Sites or the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai Portal Campuses, but in truth this extends to NYC as a Portal Campus as well, even before the current national and political climate in the United States that forces us to bear witness to a slow but steady resurgence of fascism.

  1. NYU is infamously known both within our institution and among our peers as being an aggressively complex, relational, top-down, multi-lateral, multi-tiered institution that is unique in the extent of which it is so. There is not and cannot be said to be a great sense of transparency across, between, or within any given generally agreed upon community or unit of the University.

This lack of transparency leads to a lack of centrality and cohesion, which leads to a lack of identity and identification. This creates a dynamic that members of the university are unable to navigate and understand the institution, the Global Network included. This has led to confusion, miscommunication, and impossible expectations about the control and authority NYU has with regards to communal realities at each particular site and campus.

It is understood by the body that the Global Network is a complex entity – it requires legal, ethical, cultural, and social considerations that are often difficult to navigate. We understand that the current political climate has placed extreme limitations on the ease with which many can travel across borders. We understand that globalization has become an increasingly complex and controversial topic to navigate. We are a body comprised of constituencies that have firsthand experience with navigating the movement across borders, and we understand the difficulties and nuances that come with international travel.

However, with this understanding comes a desire to see our university position itself in solidarity with both students and faculty, as well as all administration and staff, that must deal with the ramifications of the university's decision to become a Global Network. We desire to see our university act in solidarity beside the communities that are most vulnerable – People of Color, the LGBTQ Community, People of Marginalized Religions, Diasporas of occupied lands or the Global South, and those from other marginalized identities – in addressing the way the Global Network affects them uniquely.

The university must be intellectually and structurally honest with itself. We must learn to temper our institutional ambition with a care for the human persons that are the reasons for being of this university. Administration exist to serve (ad ministrare), Faculty exist to create (facultatem), and Students exist to learn (studium), and together we are NYU. New York University is a Research University and it is a Global University. These truths, which are both “axiomatic” and dogmas of the university, cannot be so centered in a way that diminishes the dimension of collaboration and transparency vertically and horizontally, which is lacking, nor upheld through sacrifice of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging of the members of our institutional body, which has been the case.

The University is limited in our capacity as a Global Network by material, historical, social, cultural, and political realities of the world today, and we must be brutally clear and candid with what those limitations are to anyone who wishes to engage with the Global dimension of NYU, whether to temper neo-colonialist intentions or to envigor internationalist and localist understandings.

As Proposed by Nursing Senator Tyla Leach, GCOMMS President Ismael Khoufaify, SGA Chair Juan Calero and Global Vice Chair Rachel Law.

December 7, 2017


[1] NYU Framework 2031

[2] NYU Framework 2031

[3] E.g An Alternative View on NYUAD by Matthew Silverstein

[4] E.g. NYU Abu Dhabi, and Our Global Future by John Sexton

[5] Global Mobility at NYU FAQs

[6] Global Network University Reflection by John Sexton