Global Domination

December 5, 2008 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

November 29, 2008

The University of Waterloo has decided to go global and will open a campus next fall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

But some professors and students have deep concerns about the move because of Dubai’s human rights record.

Homosexual behaviour is a crime in Dubai, punishable by imprisonment or death, according to the U.S. Department of State. Sex outside marriage is also a crime.

Unmarried women who have a child may be imprisoned or deported.

This means a professor who’s openly gay or who is an unmarried mother would not be able to safely travel to Dubai to teach, said philosophy professor Shannon Dea.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that every single faculty member who is qualified is welcome, and safe, to teach wherever we have a University of Waterloo campus, she said.

“I don’t think we should be doing it.”

The decision has already been made, however.

Opening campuses in other countries is a money-making venture that helps the university prepare a workforce ready for a global economy, supporters say.

The Dubai campus will serve 100 to 150 engineering students. Math will also be taught, starting in 2010.

They’ll pay foreign student tuition of more than $25,000 per year.

Courses will be taught by UW professors and will include co-op work placements. Men and women will learn in the same classroom, but athletic facilities will be separate, as expected by local custom.

After two years in Dubai, the students will move to Waterloo for two more years of study before earning their degrees.

Leo Rothenberg, acting dean of engineering and a supporter of the project, said it’s a dilemma that some faculty won’t be able to participate. But the benefits — such as the chance to do research and teach in a completely different culture — outweigh those concerns.

“I think we’re doing the right thing,” he said. “There are about 300 Canadian companies working in the United Arab Emirates right now, and they all face this.”

University of Waterloo is one of the first Canadian universities to make the move to the Emirates. Other universities with campuses there include the Sorbonne of Paris and New York University in Manhattan.

Amit Chakma, UW’s vice-president academic, said the university wants to increase its share of non-Canadian students to 20 per cent, up from nine or 10 per cent now, he said.

In part, this will be accomplished by two foreign campuses, one to be opened soon in China and one in the Middle East. Both areas have a demand for higher education.

Dubai isn’t as liberal as Canada, but it has a better human rights and safety record than many other places in the region, Chakma said. And “there are things we can learn” from Dubai, he said. For example, only 20 per cent of engineering students at UW are women, despite the university’s efforts to recruit more. In United Arab Emirates, more than half the engineering students are women.

Dubai’s human rights record is improving, Rothenburg said. He and Chakma also said educating another country’s future leaders is one of the best ways to speed improvement of conditions there.

Student leaders in Waterloo have expressed concerns about the project.

“There has been a lot of dissent on campus, particularly among students,” said Sam Andrey, a science major on the university senate.

Justin Williams, president of the UW Federation of Students, said the university has a policy of providing an atmosphere free from discrimination.

Yet in creating an employment opportunity for faculty that isn’t equally available to all, “that flies in the face of what UW stands for,” he said.

The students are also concerned about migrant workers in Dubai. Human rights groups say the workers live without a minimum wage in substandard housing.

Source: Waterloo Region Record

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Welp, see you there.

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