Set aside all differences, Clinton tells NYU Abu Dhabi graduates Filed on May 26, 2014
Set aside all differences, Clinton tells NYU Abu Dhabi graduates

New York Universityto look into charges of ‘poor treatment of labourers’ quickly.

Set aside all differences, Clinton tells NYU Abu Dhabi graduates (/assets/oldimages/ny_2605014.jpg)

Students from the inaugural class of NYU Abu Dhabi listen to a speech during the graduation ceremony on Sunday. — Wam

A long-time friend of New York University (NYU), former US President Bill Clinton came to Abu Dhabi on Sunday to celebrate the graduation of the first students of the university’s Abu Dhabi campus, despite being advised not to.

“After last week’s story in the international media about labour immigrants’ conditions here, I was told not to come to Abu Dhabi,” said Clinton, speaking in the presence of Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi, and NYU Abu Dhabi heads and professors.

“I wish the media coverage was about you (graduating students) as you celebrate your day, but it does offer the NYU the opportunity to redress one of the representative issues of inequality of the 21st century,” he stressed.

The new Saadiyat Island campus of the NYU Abu Dhabi, which has just been completed, was criticised last week in the international media, which claimed construction workers, employed via different contracting companies, were poorly treated. They were made to live in overcrowded rooms, had their passports confiscated, were paid less than promised and asked to pay fees in order to get the job.

The NYU has replied to the accusations in a statement available on its website, saying it will investigate the matter.

“We all know that treatment of immigrant labours all over the world has not been acceptable for a very long time. The NYU sought to change that here with a strong set of labour values, supported by all its Abu Dhabi government partners,” said Clinton.

“The issues included immigrant labourers having their passports confiscated so they cannot go and look for other jobs, and they had to pay fees to contractors, so they can’t work their way out of poverty and debt.

“When this story came out, instead of going into denial, the NYU Abu Dhabi promised to look into charges quickly and transparently, and, if found true, to take action,” Clinton said.

“I’m betting the NYU will make proud of its word,” he said, adding that the US worked for decades to improve its immigrant labour conditions.

He went on to congratulate the NYU Abu Dhabi’s class 2014, advising the graduates that putting aside differences of culture, gender, nationality and religious background and working with one another is the only way to create a better world.

“There is only one rule that applies. When people work together, good things happen; when they don’t, you will hurt yourself,” stressed Clinton.

“It is so great that you are different,” he told class 2014, referring to its multinationalism. “You learn so much from each other, and this extends to people who can’t go to universities, it extends to migrant workers from all over the world.

“This is the lesson you learnt here,” he concluded.

The NYU Abu Dhabi was set up in 2007 with students mostly from its New York campus. All these 139 students, coming from 49 different countries, including four Emiratis, graduated on Sunday.

The ceremony was held at the new campus on Saadiyat Island, which from the next academic year will open its doors to 620 students.

Some of the graduates have already got employment opportunities with the likes of Google and McKinsey Consulting, others have expressed their wish to remain in Abu Dhabi and pursue a career here. Several will enrol for an advanced degree at Oxford and Harvard universities.

Among them, Shamma Al Mazrouei, a 21-year-old Emirati who graduated with a degree in economics, will continue her education at Oxford this fall.

“I recollect coming to the university with a sense of uncertainty about the future, and I will never have the words to express the deep gratitude I feel for the faculty and staff, who not only helped us get over that sense of uncertainty and insecurity, but also allowed us to develop our confidence and courage to face the future,” she said.

John Sexton, NYU Abu Dhabi’s president, believes the class of 2014 has proved excellence can be achieved.

“Four years ago we set out to develop a new approach to higher education, merging Abu Dhabi’s goal of becoming one of the world’s great idea capitals with the ambitions of the NYU’s global network university. The young men and women who graduated today are proof that we have succeeded,” he said.

NYU Abu Dhabi vice chancellor Alfred Bloom said: “The Class of 2014 has been central to each of NYUAD’s historic accomplishments. They took the risk to embrace the vision of NYUAD before there was an NYUAD and shaped a student culture that the world’s best students want to join. They partnered with our faculty to create classroom, seminar, lab, and performative experiences. They mined the depth and breadth of our academic program and helped propel the new directions we would take. They ventured into Abu Dhabi and out to the world, bringing to life the distinctive educational power of a truly global university. And they will prove that the finest undergraduate education can prepare the leadership required for this century.”

NYUAD bestowed two honorary awards, the Global Leadership Award to President Clinton for his efforts to build a more responsible, just, and peaceful globe, and the Presidential Medal to Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak in honour of his outstanding service to the university. -

(With inputs from Wam)

Silvia Radan

I'm a senior journalist with 22 years experience in all forms of mass media. Originally from Romania, I lived and work in Bosnia, Uzbekistan, England and, for the past 10 years, in UAE. I specialize in art, culture, traditions, heritage, but also environment and the hospitality industry. I'm passionate about jazz and world music, cinema, mythology and offroading - I'm a marshal with one of UAE's offroading clubs!

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