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NYU Abu Dhabi sparks debate

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Steve Chiotakis: Ah, think about it, it is a great day, the opening of a new college campus. New York University — NYU — is looking to branch out again.
But not in Albany or Rochester. How about Abu Dhabi? Not everyone’s happy about it. Here’s Sally Herships.

Sally Herships: The Abu Dhabi campus will look similar to New York on paper, offering courses in the same degrees. But it’ll look a lot more exotic on the ground. It’ll share space on an island with branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim.

Fortunately for NYU, the United Arab Emirates agreed to pick up the tab for the entire project. When the campus is completed in 2012, University President John Sexton hopes it will attract as many as 2,000 of the best students from all over the globe.

John Sexton: We are I think making a leadership move here, not a move that’s designed to emulate others. We will not admit a single student in order to meet a targeted numerical goal.

Sexton says NYU’s intent isn’t to rake in more money. But Professor Andrew Ross is skeptical. He’s a department chair at NYU, and says he’s one of a number of academics who oppose the move. He says the decision to set up shop in Abu Dhabi is a sell out.

Andrew Ross: We should not be like Morgan Stanley, open to the highest bidder, to be bought if the price is right.

NYU is offering professors salary increases of at least 50% to head east. Ross says recently, there’s been a stampede of universities moving offshore. Like corporations he says, schools can save money by building in emerging markets.

But, Ross says, they’re racking up costs in other areas. He’s concerned about the treatment of migrant workers who will be doing construction on the project.

Ross: We don’t want to have NYU instructional staff teaching on a campus that is being built like on a sweatshop model.

Una Chaudhuri teaches English at NYU. She see the initiative an opportunity for students to get to know more about the world.

Una Chaudhuri: It’s just vital for America and for the West in general to begin to have a much better, deeper interaction with Islamic societies.

John Sexton says it will cost as much as $100 million a year just to run the new campus. But, he says, that’s about the same as it costs to run a college in the U.S.

In New York, I’m Sally Herships for Marketplace.

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