UAE Travel Ban on Gulf Labor member Prof. Andrew Ross

Andrew Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University
Subject: UAE Travel Ban on Prof. Andrew Ross

March 18, 2015

Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation
Nancy Spector, Deputy Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

A few days ago, NYU Professor and Gulf Labor member Andrew Ross was prevented from traveling to the UAE to conduct research on labor matters. We assume that you are well aware of this situation by now. We have yet to hear the Guggenheim’s public statement about this disturbing event. Gulf Labor urges the Guggenheim to issue an unambiguous statement condemning the action and urging the government of Abu Dhabi to live up to “upholding freedom of expression as it relates to art and other creative practices,” as Richard Armstrong has recently stated.

Moreover, and as Richard Armstrong also asserted, if the “Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will be a beacon for artistic free expression” then it surely cannot stay silent in the face of official UAE government action of banning academics and others from entering the UAE. Such actions clearly dim if not extinguish the beacon of free expression the Guggenheim pledges to be.

Gulf Labor Working Group


“Other critics of human rights abuse among UAE’s migrant workforce have been barred entry or deported,” Ross told Hyperallergic over email. “It’s a growing list. What’s different about my case is that I’m an NYU professor, and my administration has insisted that it can guarantee full academic freedom to all faculty and students moving in and out of Abu Dhabi. So what kind of signal does this send to less secure faculty employed at NYU Abu Dhabi? And will the same fate one day befall artists invited to participate in exhibitions and events at the Guggenheim or Louvre in Abu Dhabi? It’s clear these institutions cannot guarantee, in any circumstance, that speech or expression will be protected, though they continue to make public assurances that their Abu Dhabi partners have agreed to do so.”

HYPERALLERGIC: As Professor Is Denied Entry, NYU Abu Dhabi Faces New Pressure to Evolve

“Several critics of human rights abuse among UAE’s migrant workforce have been barred from entry or deported. It’s a growing list, and I joined it when I was stopped from boarding a flight to Abu Dhabi on March 14. The airline representative told me that I could not enter the country “for security reasons.” At my insistence on speaking to the U.S. Embassy, he gave me a number to call in the UAE. It turned out to be the contact for a U.S. Marine base in Dubai–the officer who took the call was nonplussed, but understandably curious as to why I had reached him. The consulate in Abu Dhabi was not much more helpful. I was told that the Embassy had no say over who the UAE decides to admit or deny entry. (American diplomats have no influence in the UAE?)”
BAFFLER: Degrees of Danger In the United Arab Emirates

“We often speak, erroneously, of academic freedom as an individual right, but it is actually a collective right, granted to the profession as a whole, because the profession cannot teach, or research, or credentialize students without it. That is why when “my” rights are violated, my colleagues, near and far, feel theirs are too, and may conclude that the institution of academic freedom is under attack as a whole. Cutting off my access to a research field is an act that affects many others besides myself. Indeed, it can present a crisis for the entire institution, whose legitimacy and reputation stand on its capacity to uphold such faculty rights. A campus operation in an authoritarian society is especially susceptible when these rights are threatened because they are assumed to be shaky from the outset.”
Chronicle of Higher Education: Andrew Ross on Collusion and Delusion

“On Saadiyat, and throughout the gleaming cityscapes of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the construction work force is almost entirely made up of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi Sri Lankan and Nepalese migrant laborers. Bound to an employer by the kafala sponsorship system, they arrive heavily indebted from recruitment and transit fees, only to find that their gulf dream has been a mirage. Typically, in the United Arab Emirates, the sponsoring employer takes their passports, houses the workers in substandard labor camps, pays much less than they were promised and enforces a punishing regimen under the desert sun.”
NYT: Andrew Ross on High Culture and Hard Labor

“How should an ostensibly liberal institution, such as a university, deal with an illiberal autocratic state such as the UAE? Probably not by going into an expensive partnership with it. But NYU is less a university than an international branding enterprise—it has also launched a campus in Shanghai, another boomtime city in a country where academics are locked up for expressing ideas contrary to the desires of the ruling authorities. The excuse or rationalization for this sort of thing is engagement. Yes, these places are unfree, but by being willing to cooperate with them, one may expose them to a taste of freedom. Show some respect and understanding toward the local norms, and perhaps the locals will return the favor. Yet the UAE has only grown more repressive since NYU began engaging with it. China is likewise engaged in an ever-tighter crackdown on academic freedom and other liberties.”
GAWKER: Abu Dhabi Successfully Exports Academic Repression to NYU

The American Association of University Professors is deeply troubled that the United Arab Emirates has denied New York University professor Andrew Ross entry to the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Ross has been conducting research on labor conditions in that country. The denial of entry has ominous implications for the state of academic freedom at NYU’s branch campus in Abu Dhabi.

AAUP: Denial of Entry to Professor Troubling

Op-Ed by Andrew Ross in Chronicle of Higher Education,

Email from Provost David McLaughlin to Andrew Ross, and Ross’ response

Media Coverage

Al-Fanar Media. Benjamin Plackett

American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

AAUP: NYU Chapter

American Studies Association



The Baffler

Carbonated TV

Chronicle of Higher Education, Katherin Mangan, March 18, 2015
Chronicle of Higher Education, Charles Huckabee, March 17, 2015

Coalition for Fair Labor at NYU

Democracy Now


Gawker . Tom Scocca

Hyperallergic. Hrag Vartanian

Inside Higher Ed . Elizabeth Redden

Mumbai Mirror. Reema Gehi

The Nation, Michelle Chen

Newsweek- Zoe Schlanger

NY Magazine Jessica Roy

NY Times Stephanie Saul

NYU Local Kelly Weill

Quartz Sonali Kohli

Reuters Chris Arsenault

Slate. Ben Mathis-Lilley

Washington Square News. Valentina Duque Bojanini
Washington Square News. Editorial

NPR show (Lopate)

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