Department Resolutions on Travel Bans and the Global Network University

Carter Journalism Institute

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.
 
Sincerely,
Adam Penenberg
Brooke Kroeger
Carol Sternhell
Charles Seife
Dan Fagin
David Dent
Jason Samuels
Jay Rosen
Katie Roiphe
Marcia Rock
Meryl Gordon
Mitchell Stephens
 
Department of Cinema Studies

We, the Department of Cinema Studies believe the issues raised by the Middle East and Islamic Study’s faculty in their letter are gravely concerning and go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. We are disappointed in the Administration’s response to these concerns thus far. Accordingly, we support MEIS’ call for NYU’s leadership to address these issues seriously; until it does so, we too feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so.

Gallatin School of Individualized Study

We, the faculty of the Gallatin School of Individualized Study, believe the issues raised by the Department of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies faculty in their letter are gravely concerning and go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. We are disappointed in President Andrew Hamilton’s response to these concerns thus far. Accordingly, we support MEIS’s call for NYU’s leadership to address these issues seriously; until it does so, we too feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so. (Passed on Nov 3rd)

Department of History

We, the faculty of the Department of History, are gravely concerned about the visa denials and entry bans affecting NYU faculty and students traveling to Abu Dhabi. We believe that the issues raised by Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies faculty in their recent letter (regarding the cases of Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi) go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. Accordingly, we support the growing call for NYU’s leadership to address these issues in a more comprehensive fashion. We also respect those faculty members who wish to register their concern by refraining from participating in academic initiatives at NYU Abu Dhabi. We urge the University leadership to invite the American Association of University Professors to review and report on ways to strengthen NYU’s commitment to core institutional principles of free movement across the GNU, non-discrimination, and academic freedom.

Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies

We, the faculty of the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at NYU, wish to express our grave concern about the decision of the UAE government to deny visas to our MEIS colleague Professor Arang Keshavarzian as well as to Professor Mohamad Bazzi of the Journalism Department, both of whom had been invited to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi during the
current academic year. This decision makes it impossible for either of them to teach at NYU Abu Dhabi as they had planned to do.
 
While a number of NYU faculty – as well as our graduate student Alya El Hosseiny, who had been awarded a Humanities Research Fellowship for dissertation work by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute – have been denied entry to the UAE in recent years, this is, we believe, the first time that tenured members of the NYU faculty whom NYU Abu Dhabi had invited to come teach there have been prevented from doing so. As such it sets a dangerous precedent that our university must not accept in silence. It also raises troubling questions about the future of NYU Abu Dhabi.
 
The UAE authorities do not disclose why they reject visa applications, but given the current situation in the UAE and the wider Gulf region it is entirely reasonable to assume that the denial of visas to Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi was the result either of something they had said, written or taught about regional politics or of their nominal religious identity (both are of Shi‘i origin). Our student Alya El Hosseiny, a citizen of Egypt, may have been denied entry because the UAE has apparently imposed visa quotas by nationality. Whatever the reasons, this development calls into serious question NYU’s willingness and ability to ensure the free movement of faculty and students across what the administration terms the “Global Network University,” to prevent religious discrimination against its faculty by the UAE and to protect its faculty’s academic freedom. It also indicates that NYU Abu Dhabi is not really in a position to decide who it wants to teach its students and conduct research, free of interference on political or religious grounds by the UAE authorities.
 
We find it extremely distressing that no NYU leader has thus far seen fit to speak out publicly in defense of our colleagues and to insist that the UAE live up to the commitments we were told it had made when NYU Abu Dhabi was launched. Instead, Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi have been told that they should just go teach elsewhere in NYU’s global network. We do not regard that as an acceptable response. We call on President Hamilton and other NYU leaders to address, publicly and in a principled manner, the denial of visas to Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi, as well as to other members of the NYU community, and what this means for the future of NYU Abu Dhabi.
 
Until NYU’s leadership addresses these issues seriously, the majority of the MEIS faculty, in solidarity with our colleagues and students, feel compelled to call on NYU faculty based in New York to consider refraining from teaching or participating in academic events at NYU Abu Dhabi until such time as all NYU faculty and students are free to do so. We further call on the NYU community to engage in a thorough and open discussion of the university’s commitments and responsibilities with regard to its faculty’s academic freedom and to their freedom of movement across its global sites. (Passed Oct. 17)

 

Department of Media, Culture, and Communication

We, the faculty of the Department of Media, Culture and Communication believe the issues raised by the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies’ faculty in their letter are gravely concerning and go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. While a number of NYU faculty and students have been denied entry to the UAE in recent years, this is, we believe, the first time that members of the NYU faculty whom NYU Abu Dhabi had invited to come teach there have been prevented from doing so. As such it sets a dangerous precedent that our university must not accept in silence. We support MEIS’s statement: “We call on President Hamilton and other NYU leaders to address, publicly and in a principled manner, the denial of visas to Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi, as well as to other members of the NYU community, and what this means for the future of NYU Abu Dhabi.” We strongly advocate academic freedom throughout the global network. (Passed on Nov 30th)

Department of Performance Studies

We, the faculty of the Department of Performance Studies are gravely concerned about the visa denials and entry bans affecting NYU faculty and students traveling to Abu Dhabi. We believe that the issues raised by Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies faculty in their recent letter (regarding the cases of Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi) go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. The free circulation of people and ideas is a fundamental civil and human right, and the defense and promotion of such rights constitute the core of a University’s mission. We condemn the UAE for denying visas to our faculty and students and demand that both NYU and the UAE achieve a higher standard of protection of those rights. (Passed unanimously Nov. 13th)

Department of Social and Cultural Analysis

We, the faculty of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, are gravely concerned about the visa denials and entry bans affecting NYU faculty and students traveling to Abu Dhabi. We believe that the issues raised by faculty in Journalism and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in their recent letters (regarding the cases of Professors Keshavarzian and Bazzi), as well as other violations borne by faculty and students within the GNU, go to the heart of NYU’s academic mission and its presence in the world. Accordingly, we support the growing call for NYU’s leadership to address these issues in a more comprehensive fashion. Specifically, we call upon NYU faculty and students to consider refraining from participating in academic initiatives at GNU portals and sites until such time that the University:

1. Invites the American Association of University Professors to review and report on ways to strengthen NYU’s commitment to core institutional principles across the GNU, including free movement, non-discrimination, and academic freedom. 

2. Lays out a transparent process that will be used to advocate for future students and faculty at those GNU sites (Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Tel Aviv) where especial concerns about discrimination and violations of academic freedom have been registered

Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies

The Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University is a leading center in the United States for the study of the modern Middle East, broadly defined. We are deeply committed to international studies and cross-cultural understanding, and support in-depth language training, field research and study in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and their diasporas. As such, the Global Network University (GNU) within NYU constitutes an integral part of our understanding of our own educative mission in facilitating community-building efforts across different campuses as well as supporting trans-regional research projects and pedagogical innovation. 

The UAE’s government recent denials of security clearance to Professor Mohamad Bazzi of Journalism and Professor Arang Keshavarzian of MEIS to teach at NYUAD are cause for great concern. Both of these tenured professors are associated faculty of ours and play a critical role in the Center’s intellectual life and are not a security risk. MEIS PhD student Alya El Hosseiny’s security clearance denial is equally problematic. Indeed, students or faculty who either work on or are personally connected to the Middle East have less access to our GNU sites in the Middle East region, which puts a number of question marks on the nature of the GNU for the Kevorkian community in particular and the university as a whole. This pattern puts a major strain on our community-building efforts, as well as on the integration of the NYUAD campus, which also includes associated faculty of ours, within the GNU. 

If the GNU is to achieve more than educational tourism, NYU and its leadership should have the courage to stand up to its political and educational commitments and openly address all of these breaches of trust. We expect NYU to stand firm against all policies that hinder its academic mission, and against various atrocities committed by governments throughout the GNU, just as it does on its home campus in the United States.

We stand in solidarity with all faculty, staff, and students who have been placed into compromised positions as a result of their arrangements in the GNU, denied access to sites in the GNU and elsewhere, experienced any limits on their academic freedom or freedom of expression, or have remained silent on these issues due to their vulnerability. 

The Kevorkian Center is no stranger to the complexity and difficulty of the inequities of international mobility and limits on freedom of expression, even in the name of educational exchange. Many of the Kevorkian Center’s students, staff, faculty, and guests have been invariably disserviced by, inter alia, President Trump’s travel ban and previous Islamophobic US government visa policies; prohibition to enter and in some cases being expelled by countries other than the US and the UAE; and mobility restrictions on US federal funding for research and language study. Many Kevorkian members have also been impacted by conflict, embargoes, travel sanctions, boycotts between nation-states and/or institutions, exile, as well as policies, practices, and expressions of oppression and racism. The Center is keenly sensitive to these barriers and diligently seeks to overcome them, as exemplified in our hiring and admissions record, as well as our curated programming which seeks to include actors across the geopolitical spectrum. 

We support various departments’ calls to NYU leadership for a more thorough and open conversation about the university’s role and responsibility in these matters. As a space that seeks to foster understanding of the Middle East and provides a platform for all perspectives, the Kevorkian Center is eager to contribute to and/or serve as a host to such a conversation. 

Sincerely, Helga Tawil Souri, Director // Greta Scharnweber, Associate Director