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05/31/2014

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Enzo Rossi

I was recently invited as a workshop speaker at Georgetown in Qatar (partly funded by the local Emir). I would agree with you that the University is a beacon of progressive values in the country. For instance, faculty there explained to me that often their female students wouldn't be allowed to go to university at all if they had to leave their country for it. And an American institution on Qatari soil arguably broadens their horizons more than a homegrown one would.

Matty Silverstein

Eric, could you please say a bit more about what you take the problematic "political economy" of NYU to be in this instance? The head of Mubadala is indeed an NYU trustee. (He was invited to join the board after the NYU Abu Dhabi initiative was launched.) Are you suggesting that the signatories of the letter have tempered their criticism of Mubadala because of Khaldoon Al Mubarak's presence on the board? Or is there something else you have in mind?

I'm really just asking for clarification here.

Eric Schliesser

Matty, I prefer not to speculate about motives of the letter writers beyond what I said in the post. Maybe you tell me what role the CEO of Mubadala plays in Abu Dhabi's politics and economics (you probably have much better local knowledge than I do), and why he was important enough to be invited to the board of Trustess at NYU and to do business with at the same time. Anyway, it may make legal sense not to conflate NYU with Mubadala, but in this project it seems misleading to suggest that somehow NYUAD and Mubadala are entirely separate parties.

Matthew Silverstein

I'm still not sure what's underlying your concerns about the relationship between NYUAD and Mubadala, but let me see if I can provide additional information that may clear up some confusions.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak is the CEO of Mubadala. He is also the chairman of the Executive Affairs Authority, which -- according to its website -- "provides strategic policy and communications advice to the Chairman of the Executive Council, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi." He is, then, a major player in both the politics and the economics of Abu Dhabi (and thus the UAE more broadly).

NYU is indeed "doing business" with Mubadala, but not in the way that you suggest. Contrary to Andrew Ross Sorkin's column in the *Times*, Mubadala is not the contractor that built the NYU campus on Saadiyat Island. Mubadala is an investment and development company. With respect to the NYU construction project, then, Mubadala is the developer (or the client). Mubadala awarded the construction contract to Al Futtaim Carillion, an entirely separate company.

All of this is laid out clearly in the compliance reports I linked to in one of my NewAPPS comments. Here is a link to the most recent report: http://nyuad.nyu.edu/content/dam/nyuad/departments/public-affairs/documents/pr/NYUAD-Compliance-Report-2012.pdf.

If you're concerned about the relationship between NYU and Khaldoon Al Mubarak because you think that the company the latter oversees (Mubadala) has made money off of the construction of the NYU campus, then you have it exactly backwards. Mubadala did not make any money off of the construction. *It paid for the construction!* As one of my colleagues put it, we are not helping Mr. Al Mubarak make money. We are helping him and his government *spend* money!

I will also add that Mubadala does not play any role at all in the day to day running of NYUAD. As far as I know, their role in the NYU project was limited to the development of our campus on Saadiyat Island. (That said, all of these distinctions are a biz hazy. Mubadala is, after all, wholly owned by the government of Abu Dhabi. And NYUAD is being funded solely by the government of Abu Dhabi.)

Does that clear anything up, Eric? For a more detailed account of the mistakes in the aforementioned *Times* piece about the relationship between NYU and Mr. Al Mubarak, see this blog post by one of my colleagues: http://patell.org/2014/05/grading-andrew-ross-sorkin/.

Eric Schliesser

Matthew,
Thank you for the follow up, and for clarifying your impression of how Abu Dhabi money [isn't that the hand that feeds you?] is spent. (I never made any claims about that.) As I said, if you accuse others of painting a partial picture, you shouldn't omit mention of the fact that a 'major player' who sits on your board of Trustees is responsible for building your campus in a political economy where things 'are a bit hazy.' [That things are a bit hazy is the norm in crony capitalism in petty dictatorships.]
Finally, I have no idea why you think outsiders would care about who makes money. They care about the fact that people were exploited. It seems NYU and some of its faculty are incapable of being forthright about their apparent, non-trivial complicity in this and use lawyer-ly language about monitoring mechanisms. Having said that, I am surprised by your confidence about who makes money (or not) on building contract--that's notoriously difficult to figure out just about anywhere.

Matty Silverstein

I'm afraid to admit, Eric, that I still don't understand what your concern about the faculty letter is. Yes, we failed to mention that Khaldoon Al Mubarak, the CEO of Mubadala, is one of some sixty-five members of the NYU Board of Trustees. We also failed to mention that the new campus on Saadiyat is mostly white and is roughly in the shape of an oval, and that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is approximately 3.14159265. You seem convinced that the first failure is a serious one, but you haven't articulated -- at least in a way I'm able to comprehend -- why that is the case. If indeed we should have mentioned that Mr. Al Mubarak sits on the NYU board, that must be because this fact casts some of the claims we made in the letter in a different light, or because it fills out a picture in a way that changes the impression provided by the letter. (If it didn't do either of those things, then surely a statement of that fact would be just a non sequitur.) I would be grateful if you could state more explicitly how this fact -- that Mr. Al Mubarak sits on the NYU board -- does either of these things. What worry about NYUAD does this fact in particular give rise to?

This morning I thought you were suggesting that various decisions might have been made to enrich a board member by directing money to a company he operates. That is why I explained that Mubadala has been *spending* money on NYUAD, rather than earning any.

You keep saying, "I prefer not to speculate about that." Or, "I never made any claim about that." What claim are you making, then? What does Mr. Al Mubarak's presence on the NYU board lead you to suspect about NYUAD? How does it bear on the defense of NYUAD provided in the letter published by the *Chronicle*?

Eric Schliesser

"We also failed to mention that the new campus on Saadiyat is mostly white and is roughly in the shape of an oval, and that the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is approximately 3.14159265." None of these facts are, I suspect, relevant to judging what is in NYU's legal or moral "purview" direct or otherwise. Your comments at NewAPPS and the letter in the Chronicle are less than forthright about the nature of the partnership between NYU and Mr. Al Mubarak; this is why you cannot occupy the high-ground when you claim that others are partial.
Anyway, in the post I made a very specific charge about the letter: "you omit mention of the folk that (indirectly) fund your salary from criticism." That is, I also made a point about the fact that serious money was being spent on NYUAD. (Why you construed my post as a claim about enrichment by a board member is beyond me. The post is about professors in glass houses not the folk that fund the houses.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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