Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Arab Money Trumps Diversity


Today’s Inside Higher Ed contains a breathless account of NYU’s new Abu Dhabi campus. It begins:

Symone Gamble, 17, of Frisco, Texas, was dead-set on attending Princeton University. Then she noticed a booklet about New York University Abu Dhabi in her stacks of college mail. Intrigued, she applied. The university flew her to Abu Dhabi for an all-expenses-paid candidate weekend. “It was the first campus I went to where I felt like I could honestly be at home, even though for a girl from a town in Texas, feeling at home in a place on the other side of the globe feels a little bit out of the ordinary,” she said.

Symone will be attending an institution that is likewise notable for its un-ordinary – even extraordinary – plans. NYU Abu Dhabi, by far the most ambitious overseas branch campus to be launched by a U.S. university, opens this fall, and today announced the profile of its inaugural freshman class. More than a third (36 percent) of the 150 incoming students hail from the United States, which is the single largest country of origin, followed by the host country, the United Arab Emirates (8 percent), and China (6 percent).

All told, the students come from 39 countries and their median SAT score is an impressive 1470 — as befitting an institution that has already dubbed itself the “World’s Honors College.” The acceptance rate for students at NYU Abu Dhabi, of just 2.1 percent, compares to 29.4 percent (fall 2009 data) at NYU’s main campus in New York and makes it among the most selective undergraduate institutions in the world.

Sounds like an academic paradise on the Persian Gulf, right? There are a few facts missing from the article. Surprisingly, for a university that Princeton Review calls the most “gay friendly” in the United States (and whose faculty and students recently pressured a Christian professor into canceling her appointment at NYU law school because she opposed decriminalizing sodomy in her native Singapore), NYU is sending students to a country that not only bans homosexual sodomy, it vigorously enforces that ban and reportedly subjects imprisoned men to involuntary hormone treatments.  

But all that can’t apply to NYU students, right? Ummm, well . . . perhaps prospective students should heed the words of Mokarrab Al Muhairi, a UAE member of the NYU Abu Dhabi steering committee: “If folks want to come here, they have to understand that this isn’t New York. . . . Nobody is going to have any special protection.”

Indeed it is not New York. After all, Israelis are allowed to visit New York. They’re banned from the UAE. NYU has a cute diversity website, so I guess their reasoning is that anti-Semites are diverse too. After all, the UAE has featured some interesting conferences:

One wonders how the Jewish members of NYU’s board of trustees engaged the mental gymnastics necessary to process the U.A.E.’s disconcerting tolerance of anti-Semitism. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a 2002 symposium sponsored by a now-defunct Abu Dhabi think tank challenged the reality of the Holocaust; a speaker called Jews “the enemies of all nations.”

Why would NYU tout a new school in a place that is officially racist and reportedly engages in mandatory and bizarre forms of medical “treatment” for homosexual prisoners? It couldn’t possibly be that our university culture is addicted to Arab money, could it? It can’t be that the university world has different levels of tolerance for Christians and Muslims, right? I mean, they certainly can’t tolerate pervasive anti-Semitism, can they?

It’s a simple fact that our elites tolerate and enable anti-Semitism when they would never, ever tolerate any other form of racism. It’s a simple fact that Muslims are often given a pass for shocking excesses in their behavior (which makes UC-Irvine’s recent discipline against the Muslim Student Association all the more surprising and welcome). And it’s a simple fact that money so very often trumps even the most loudly trumpeted commitment to “inclusion.”  

It’s always been hard for me to take seriously academia’s alleged good intentions as it imposes speech codes against conservatives here at home and hounds Christian student groups off campus. Campuses like NYU Abu Dhabi only reinforce my cynicism. Are you really pro-diversity in the broadest sense, or are Christians and Jews simply second-class citizens?


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review