NYU ABU DHABI: FAQS
WHAT IS NYU ABU DHABI?
In 2007, President Sexton’s administration announced plans for the construction of NYU Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The campus will be financed entirely by the UAE government and in return, NYU will lend its name to the campus. Unlike other overseas NYU sites, NYU Abu Dhabi is not merely a study-abroad program but instead a fully-functioning liberal arts institution that will issue NYU degrees. In other words, students who attend NYU Abu Dhabi will receive the exact same NYU degree as those who graduate from its Washington Square campus – a first for a major research university.
WHAT IS NYU’S RELATIONSHIP TO NYU ABU DHABI?
NYU is in a business relationship with the UAE. NYU owns its own name as intellectual property. NYU’s name carries a value that is dependent upon NYU’s reputation as a democratic institution dedicated to ethical and intellectual engagement with the world. NYU is lending or franchising its name to the UAE for use on the Abu Dhabi campus. In return, the UAE is financing NYU Abu Dhabi and some operations on NYU’s Washington Square campus. The UAE is paying for the NYU name because NYU has a global reputation for excellence.
WHAT IS THE FAIR LABOR CODE OF CONDUCT AND WHY DO WE NEED IT?
The Fair Labor Code of Conduct is a binding, legally enforceable contract that would govern the construction and operation of all future NYU branch campuses, including NYU Abu Dhabi. The Fair Labor Code of Conduct would empower an independent third party, external monitor to enforce fair labor standards. A third party monitor is critical to ensuring unbiased, fair enforcement of labor standards at sites that bear NYU’s name. Unenforceable assurances from the governments of countries hosting NYU branch campuses are not enough – individual governments may be unwilling or unable to guarantee fair labor practices and what they are able to provide will likely vary widely.
We need the Fair Labor Code of Conduct to protect both workers’ rights on global campuses and NYU’s valuable name. Human Rights Watch and other international groups have documented a string of abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Abu Dhabi. Migrant workers are often subjected to non-payment of wages, withholding of passports, hazardous work conditions, and deportation for striking over unpaid wages. NYU risks compromising its name and reputation by lending its name to a branch campus that will currently operate without any guarantees that workers’ basic human rights will be respected.
If the UAE will build and run the campus, what do the labor condition there have to do with NYU?
NYU is a brand whose value depends on the strength of its name and reputation. The value of the NYU name will be diminished if labor abuses occur at places that carry its name. Construction of NYU Abu Dhabi has not yet begun and already major media outlets, like ABC news, are linking NYU to labor exploitation in the UAE. For more articles on NYU Abu Dhabi and migrant labor concerns, please visit our press page.
HOW CAN NYU AFFECT THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH NYU ABU DHABI IS CONSTRUCTED AND OPERATED WHEN THE UAE WILL OWN, BUILD AND RUN THE CAMPUS?
NYU can affect the conditions under which NYU Abu Dhabi is constructed and operated by publically signing and insisting that its UAE partners abide by the Fair Labor Code of Conduct. NYU has the power to require its UAE partners to adopt fair labor practices.
NYU and the UAE are in a business relationship in which NYU trades the use of is name in exchange for the UAE’s promise to build and operate an Abu Dhabi campus and fund other projects in Washington Square. By law, NYU can set the terms and conditions for the use of its name by outside parties. If these terms and conditions are not satisfied, NYU has the right to refuse to let its name be used. NYU is not powerless in relation to the UAE. NYU Abu Dhabi is a business venture between NYU and the UAE, which is profitting off the use of the NYU brand just as NYU profits from the UAE’s funding.
HAS NYU SIGNED ANYTHING LIKE THE FAIR LABOR CODE OF CONDUCT BEFORE?
Yes. NYU is a part of the Workers Rights Consortium (WRC) and has formally adopted the WRC Code of Conduct, which governs the conditions in factories that manufacture NYU apparel and logo-bearing merchandise. NYU does have control of how its name is used and the WRC code is proof. While NYU doesn’t own the factories that produce its merchandise, it does have a say in what the working conditions in those factories are like. In fact, NYU has a legal guarantee of good working conditions in those factories through the WRC Code. In this way, the WRC code protects both factory workers and NYU’s name. The Fair Labor Code of Conduct for branch campuses works the same way — it protects both migrant workers and NYU’s name. The Fair Labor Code of Conduct is modeled after the WRC code (available at: http://www.workersrights.org/university/coc.asp). The Fair Labor Code of Conduct simply amends the WRC code to cover the labor issues that arise in construction and operation of buildings at non-US site branch campuses and sites of instruction.
NYU SAYS THAT THE UAE EXECUTIVE AUTHORITY — WHICH WILL OWN AND CONSTRUCT THE NYU ABU DHABI CAMPUS — HAS PROMISED THAT LABOR ABUSES WON’T OCCUR. ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?
No. Only a legally binding, enforceable and public commitment from NYU will guarantee the protection of migrant workers’ basic human rights at NYU Abu Dhabi and all future branch campuses. The fact that the UAE Executive Authority will construct and own the campus buildings only heightens concerns about the labor standards employed there. As Human Rights Watch has extensively documented, migrant workers in Abu Dhabi are badly exploited and the UAE government has faced difficultly in remedying labor abuses. The UAE construction boom has been so sudden that even if the government were willing to protect migrant workers, the existing UAE governmental agencies responsible for enforcing these labor protections are both understaffed and underempowered. For more information on migrant construction worker rights abuse and UAE governmental response, please visit: http://hrw.org/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/uae17622.htm.
The Coalition for Fair Labor believes that only an external, third party monitor can effectively ensure that fair labor practices are being upheld and protect NYU’s valuable name. An informal agreement with the UAE Executive Authority will do little to protect NYU’s name if and when labor abuses occur on site.
Additionally, a private informal agreement between NYU and the UAE will reinforce the perception that NYU is to be granted special privileges that are not enjoyed elsewhere in Abu Dhabi–not exactly the best image for NYU in Abu Dhabi. It would be much better, in our opinion, if NYU were to go on public record as adopting the Fair Labor Code of Conduct that the Fair Labor Coalition has proposed. This would make NYU the first large employer in Abu Dhabi to do so, and it would offer the model for best practices that Human Rights Watch, the American Association for University Professor and others with a stake in branch campus development all support. The alternative–to make a private deal with the UAE Executive Authority–does not convey the same message about public integrity that NYU needs to uphold in this highly scrutinized venture.
IS THE FAIR LABOR CODE OF CONDUCT SENSITIVE TO DIFFERENT CULTURAL PRACTICES AND BELIEFS?
Yes. The Fair Labor Code of Conduct only asks that internationally recognized labor standards be met. These are really basic things like getting paid for the work that you do, having access to water and medical care if injured on the job, allowing workers to keep their passports and have freedom of movement at the worksite (for example, being able to use the restroom as necessary).
DO YOU THINK NYU ABU DHABI AND OTHER GLOBAL SITES OF INSTRUCTION ARE BAD AND SHOULD BE STOPPED?
No. The Coalition believes that there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about building branch campuses on non-US sites. The right way is to guarantee specific, legally enforceable protections for the people who build and operate the sites and in doing so protect NYU’s valuable name.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP PROTECT WORKERS ON ALL OF NYU’S CAMPUSES?
You can sign the petition urging NYU to adopt – and insist its UAE partners abide by — a Fair Labor Code of Conduct that will govern the construction and operation of NYU Abu Dhabi and all future NYU branch campuses. The petition is available at: http://www.petitiononline.com/nyulabor/petition.html.
You can also contact your NYU senator and ask them to support the Senate resolution urging NYU to adopt the Fair Labor Code of Conduct. To learn more about student government and to identify your representative, visit http://www.nyu.edu/stugov/about.html.
For questions or to get more involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.