Repression in the United Arab Emirates
New York University and the Sorbonne come in for special criticism:
Reached by e-mail, Michel Fichant, a professor emeritus at the Sorbonne and a board member of its Abu Dhabi branch, responded that the institution was “concerned not at all by some arrests” that recently took place. He stressed that Professor bin Ghaith had merely been invited to present at some conferences, but was not an employee. The response from NYU was equally dismissive: “The school itself does not take public stands on issues and policies that fall outside of its core mission of operating a world-class university.”h/t to Davidson who tweets,
According to NYU sociology Professor Andrew Ross, who has been an outspoken critic of the university’s involvement in the autocratic city-state, NYU president John Sexton recently told a group of concerned faculty members that he had reason to believe those arrested were a genuine threat to national security, something that Professor Lockman finds “particularly shocking.”
“He suggested that these people were genuinely subversive and deserving of arrest, although human rights organizations, of course, have a different take,” said Lockman. “This kind of toadying to the crown prince and his ilk shows the hollowness of NYU’s role in this place.”
Ross and his colleagues at the New York chapter of the American Association of University Professors sent a letter addressed to Dean Sexton and Vice-Chancellor Al Bloom, warning that “Silence on this serious issue will set a precedent that could also have ominous consequences for the speech protections of NYUAD faculty.” At the Sorbonne, the student union AGEPS (Association Générale des Etudiants de Paris Sorbonne) presented a motion that was adopted by the Conseil des Etudes et de la Vie Universitaire (CEVU), an academic advisory body, denouncing the Sorbonne’s lack of response and calling on it to defend the values of the French Republic. Neither action has resulted in any change in either university’s stance.
Unfortunately, those working on behalf of the detainees have few other options. Local avenues appear closed, and international pressure is all that remains.
“Their Achilles’ heel is the soft-power partnerships and ventures set up with international partners: NYU, the Sorbonne, the Louvre, the Guggenheim,” said Dr. [Christopher] Davidson. “If these institutions were to collectively say, ‘We’re not going to do business with a country that takes political prisoners,’ it’s a no-brainer. But their complicity is a form of violence.”