Should School Set Up Shop In Homophobic Nation?

NYU’s UAE Campus Draws Gay Fire

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New York University recently announced plans that it will open a campus in Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates.

Considering the federation’s prohibitions on “homosexual acts,” it should come as no surprise that NYU garnered some queer criticism for the decision.

President John Sexton got grilled at town hall meeting last week, during which two gay students raised their voices against the dubious Abu Dhabi decision.

NYU journo Sergio Hernandez reports:

At a town hall meeting last week, two students sharply questioned NYU president John Sexton about the plan and voiced their concerns about LGBT students at NYU Abu Dhabi.

In an interview with WSN following the announcement, Sexton said the university had “addressed all of the issues that one would want to address in the course of our conversations” but did not comment on specific concerns.

Kerwin Kaye, a bisexual doctoral student in NYU’s American Studies program who mentioned the issue at the town hall, said he was unsatisfied with Sexton’s vague answers.

“I think he basically dismissed the concern and said it’s not going to be a problem – I don’t think he thought about it for more than the 10 seconds the question was asked,” Kaye said.

Hoping to sooth concerns, University officials insists students would be safe on the “bubble-like” campus, but made no guarantees of what happens beyond the ivory towers. Department of Public Safety spokesman John Beckman told reporters:

There is no blanket immunity that NYU – or any other entity (including the U.S. government, for that matter) – can offer from the laws and customs of the many countries in which members of our community pursue their scholarship.

That’s very true. NYU – and other universities – have set up shop in a host of anti-gay countries, like Ghana, but it’s ultimately up to the students to decide whether they want to take risks in inhospitable countries.

Kaye, the student who questioned Sexton, wants the world to know that his objections have nothing to do with prejudicial sentiment, saying:

In bringing up these issues, I do not wish to exacerbate anti-Islamic or anti-Arabic prejudices. As with the status of women, the status of homosexuality in Middle Eastern countries is extremely complex, and people should avoid the idea that the West is inevitably more tolerant or accepting.

Ain’t that the truth.