That understanding also holds at New York University’s campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, both paid for by those governments. While university president John Sexton sees it as the first global university, that vision has many critics. The faculty has voted no-confidence in Sexton partly over this issue.
In 2011, after the arrest of three dissidents in the United Arab Emirates, Human Rights Watch called on NYU to protest: “Is NYU going to advertise the magnificence of studying in Abu Dhabi while the government persecutes an academic for his political beliefs?” the group’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
NYU responded that in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere, it did not get involved in matters outside its academic mission. In September, the NYU chapter of the American Association of University Professors wrote to the trustees, describing their concerns about the overseas campuses.
“Accepting vast sums of money from foreign governments puts NYU and every scholar affiliated with the university in a morally compromising situation,” it said. “In such situations, academic freedom is usually the first casualty.”
While working inside a bubble in a country hostile to free speech, the letter said, faculty’s important public role is stifled.
The trustees did not respond, NYU AAUP chapter head Andrew Ross said.