John Sexton, president of the prestigious New York University (NYU), along with its executive, was asked by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) gay rights group over the ethics and conduct regarding their flagship Abu Dhabi campus.
Earlier this week it was revealed that Sexton answered dismissively to NYU professors riasing concerns if gay students would be unwelcome in Abu Dhabi, stating: ‘I would say to any student here that wants to go to the Abu Dhabi campus, “Go”. Gay students, Israeli students, I refuse to think in those categories’.
Board members of the NYU, however, said they are fully behind Sexton and will back the University's further expansions scheduled for completion in 2014, despite opposition of its professors.
In their letter published today (22 March), members of the local rights group, UAE LGBT groups said: ‘Legally and socially, members of the LGBT community in the United Arab Emirates continue to face discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and deportation.
‘As a university that prides itself for being a ‘’world class innovative research Institution’’, one that ‘’understands, admires, and feels a kinship for those who embrace large, audacious, transformative ideas’’, and most importantly as educators who have a moral obligation to all their students, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation and nationality, we are writing to you to ask specifically, what you have done in regards to safe-guarding your students, and educating them about the reality of the harsh laws currently in place in the country.
‘Are students who attend NYU Abu Dhabi immune to the laws of the government on campus?
‘Does the university have any educational or outreach programs that promote equality and work with the LGBT community in the United Arab Emirates?
‘Are there any formal student LGBT organizations within the campus that do not face risks of being arrested, just for simply being?
The group said it was the duty of NYU to share scholarly evidence with the Emirates Psychological Association and other scientific bodies present in the UAE that still to this day classify homosexuality as a mental illness, and often use archaic and’ EX-Gay therapies has ‘no scientific basis and are at odds with what you and other international institutions currently teach.’
They called upon NYU to set an example of education and diversity over comfort and profits motives, saying that: ‘Only then will higher education truly mean something’.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Abdulla, chair and founder of the group said: ‘I hope they consider and honor the policies and values that they stand for, how is the LGBT community expected to contribute intellectually and academically if their basic rights are not protected,
‘A university cannot function, if students are not treated equally, this will in turn compromise the stature of the institution and its contributions’.
Nasira, the director of the group added: ‘The university has a duty to educate, not just its students but itself.
‘I truly hope that they use this opportunity not only for financial gain, but as a chance to educate those who perhaps aren't as willing to learn and understand as their students are.
‘Ignoring the rights of the few for the financial gain of the majority is not new but it is outdated and we for one hold them accountable’.