Former U.S. president Bill Clinton is scheduled to deliver a commencement address to students of NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. NYU’s decision to open a campus in Abu Dhabi, located within the United Arab Emirates, where many freedoms and basic human rights that westerners take for granted don’t exist, was controversial to say the least.
If you are wondering why “New York” University has a campus half way around the world in the middle east, it may help you to understand that the government of Abu Dhabi contributed tens of millions to NYU’s coffers. Selling your academic brand abroad can be lucrative business.
The United Arab Emirates has a long list of abuses according to Human Rights Watch, including jailing political dissidents, criminalizing political speech, torturing prisoners, and denying women basic legal rights.
Clearly there’s a problem here: How does a western university built on the notion that the free exchange of ideas is sacred, operate a campus in an oppressive nation where basic free speech rights are not guaranteed and political corruption is rampant?
Shortly after NYU opened its Abu Dhabi campus, I wrote the following at National Review Online:
By leasing out their names, academic prestige and credibility to some of the most repressive governments in the world, our leading universities are showing that they place ultimate value not on the principles of liberty or the free expression of ideas, but on corporate-style expansionism, power, and the almighty dollar.
The morally suspect nature of the whole operation is made all the more stark by the presence of Bill Clinton at this year’s commencement. The former U.S. president will address a graduating class of 140 and their families.
That’s right. The former leader of the free world with fly across the world to it’s less-than-free nether regions all for the purpose of talking to 140 kids. That’s quite a commitment for a guy in Clinton’s position. Makes me wonder how much oil money the sheiks of the United Arab Emirates are throwing at him. $200,000? $500,000? $1,000,000?
Clinton, who makes tens of millions of dollars every year from paid speeches, earned $500,000 for a speech he delivered in Abu Dhabi in 2011. Stands to reason he’s getting that much or more this time around.
So what you got is a little pet university, funded by untold millions from the corrupt government of the UAE, rubber stamped by NYU, inc, and further legitimized by a fly-in pay day for Clinton where he will talk to a small room full of students, no doubt, about the importance of integrity, liberty, accountability, and all the other characteristics epitomized by his political career and by the cadre of oil barons who rule the UAE with absolute authority.
If you follow the money, it all makes sense.
Then again, if you genuinely care about human rights, maybe the NYU/Bill Clinton/Abu Dhabi partnerthip doesn’t make any sense at all.
Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.
Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden
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