31 January, 2007

State lawmaker questions UConn's Dubai plan

I hadn't heard that the University of Connecticut was planning on opening a Dubai campus, but this plan isn't getting a warm reception from Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, the co-chair of the state General Assembly's Education Committee:

"[I]t's always important to understand whom you are partnering with...

"There are major questions that have been raised about human rights in Dubai... [A] critical first step would be for Dubai and the rest of the United Arab Emirates to agree to start living by certain basic standards of human rights and worker rights that appear to be neglected there now.

"There are people living in Dubai right now ... who are, functionally, little more than indentured servants."

The story also sites the Human Rights Watch report from last December.

15 comments:

A Yahya said...

I think Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann has a very good point. Likewise, before the UAE continues partnering with the US, we should also further examine that country's human rights record as well.

Its almost like the pot calling the kettle black.

I Have a Dream said...

lol @ Yahya's point.. thumps up.

So let me restate Mr. Fleischmann's point: we don't partner with those whom we think might need education. We only pick the educated!

I think the use of economic incentives in itself is messing up lot's places (and helping sometimes) I would really hate to see a politicalization of education.

a question on the side: how good is UConn anyway?!

rosh said...

But seriously - even if he has a point, I am unable to understand his view?

I would assume an "educated" or wordly individual would try and bring about positive changes & awareness into a community via education -not by boycotting or limiting education?

Moreover after reading his bio (see link below) I can't help think if his sentiments got to do more with Muslims & Arabs in general, as he is Jewish? (not trying to stir anything unpleasant - but can't help wonder)

http://www.cga.ct.gov/hdo/018/bio018.html

Brn said...

Just out of curiosity, by what objective standard(s) are you using to compare the US and the UAE on human rights?

I think that UConn is generally considered to be a pretty good school. According to Wikipedia "UConn has repeatedly been ranked the top public university in New England by U.S. News and World Report, and is also ranked among the top 25 public research universities nationally."

Proactiv Solution said...
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Brn said...

rosh and i have a dream,

I think that is a good point that even if you believe that about the Emirates, then education would seem to be the best answer.

Incidentally rosh, what is the evidence that Rep. Fleischmann is Jewish? I agree, that could be a possible motive for someone being adverse to dealing with the Emirates. However, I read that page that you linked and can't find anything reference to his religion at all.

rosh said...

"what is the evidence that Rep. Fleischmann is Jewish?"

Not sure if this is a trick question - but I think we both know someone's religion or religious beliefs is not going to be displayed on his/her bio - especially if Jewish. I mean just recall the political debate/storm from George Allen, who got upset when a reporter asked him about his mother's Jewish lineage.

Oh btw, I know 3 Fleischmann's here in New York City - all Jewish (one of 'em is my dentist and she's brilliant).

Brn said...

rosh,

I honestly didn't mean that as a trick question. I guess that you mean that you are using his last name as evidence then. I don't know any Fleishmanns (that feels like I should say "Fleishmenn"), Jewish or not, so it sounds like you have your experience to go by.

rosh said...

My comment on trick question was in humour.

You can google up Fleischmann to verify. However I must admit, I do not know for fact if he is Jewish. I assume he is, given his last name and the Fleischmann's I know off, here in the city.

I don't care about his personal beliefs/religion. I was quite taken back by his lame comments and rationale on the UAE. It also read - perhaps he was taking a pre-emptive stance, in the event a la DP world event occurred with U Conn.

Personally I would be delighted to see top quality US educational institutions in the UAE.

The cynic said...

The idea that Dubai needs to be "educated" on the matter of human rights is a little bit patronizing and condescending. I don't think Dubai needs to be educated, I think the Powers-That-Be have a perfectly good understanding of human rights and labor standards in the rest of the world. They spend lots of time in the rest of the world.

The point here is that the local Powers-That-Be *choose* the standards in the country, because the standards that exist are what are best for the Emiratis. Paying less money to workers, spending less money on their accomodations, spending less money on their food and transportation, spending less money on workplace safety rules and practices all add up to one thing: more profit for businesses, and we know that all businesses outside the Free Zones are majority owned by Emiratis.

So, what I think Mr. Fleischmann is saying is not that Dubai needs to be educated, but that Dubai chooses to enact certain business practices, and that he finds these business practices undesirable, and therefore, he chooses not to do business with Dubai.

It's a bit like me choosing not to shop in a certain store if I notice that the owner of the store regularly beats his staff and doesn't pay them on time: he can choose to behave the way he wants, but doing so costs him my business.

Dubai Inc. does business a certain way because it is profitable for Dubai Inc., but sometimes there are going to be people who wil not want to do business with Dubai because those other people do not approve, ethically, with the business practices of Dubai Inc.

Dubai Inc. could pay higher wages, and make sure those wages are paid on time, and spend more money on labor inspectors and better quality worker housing, but these things would cost it money. Do they (you?) want to make a lot less profit in order to get the approval of a few American academics and politicians?

Al Mulhama, The Inspired said...

Cynic,

Well said.

Though I do think that Dubai is also trying to do well and to work on improving those standards. Note the recent events relating to labour rights. The issue of Coporate Social Responsibility is also a vey hot topic in the city and many more.

I feel that now that it has grown and developed, Dubai is taking the time and energy to expend on it's "Depth" from all aspects whether cultural, social, environmental or economical.

I have faith with a lot of positive thinking and hard work from all concerned it can take that path.

As for UCONN or any other good university, it's student body & faculty is what it must be proud of, therefore being in the UAE would add benefit to that as many from across the GCC & Arab world may choose to send their kids here. In addition, for both further education & research, what better place than somewhere with the capacity for both whether expat companies/communities or local.

Lets see.

rosh said...

The cynic;

I am not sure your logic on Dubai Inc & (supposed) Fleischmann's thoughts stands strong. Applying similar logic, things are not perfect or fair for working class souls in United States either.

Capitalism is strongest in the US . Corporations reduce jobs & payscales, increase working hours inorder to increase bottom line results to satisfy shareholder pockets, including senior management fat bonuses. The rich gets richer and the poor, poorer.

Consider, U Conn or most US educational institution tuition fees. The primary logic for insane tuition fees is profit.

Every profit earning entity would do it's best to maximize profits & reduce costs. Hence, in this context, I am not sure if your or Fleischmann's (noble) thoughts on lack of Human Rights in the UAE & Dubai Inc is fair or correct. Plus the guy is the CEO of a corporation - hence his sentiment reads like political humbug.

Having said that, I strongly feel the fundamental difference between the UAE & United States (on human rights) is within the Corporate Culture/Responsibility. Today, there perhaps is the lack of best in class awareness, attitude, governance and perception - not with the local powers- that-be, but with most average Emirati & long term residents.

I strongly believe education & integration of ideas is the best way to bring about positive changes for the future.

Anonymous said...

Rosh,

There are only about 100 for profit universities in the US. Per Wikipedia:
"Tuition is charged at all American universities. Students often use scholarships, student loans, or grants, rather than paying all tuition out-of-pocket. Public universities receive funding from individual states, and residents of the state that supports the university typically pay much lower tuition than non-residents. All competitive universities, public and private, have endowments to provide a steady, reliable source of funding. Harvard University's endowment is the largest of any educational institution at $29.2 billion."

rosh said...

Anon @ 2:30: College tution is not free in North America. My brothers & I paid, International student tution fees. I think, I have a fairly decent idea of how endowments & student loans work.

A cousin (US citizen) who recently graduated from Columbia has A $47k in tution loans on his 23 year old shoulders.

Grants/loans/endowments - it doesn't remove the "profit" factor does it?

The Cynic said...

Rosh:

You're wrong on a couple of points: Fleischmann isn't a CEO, he is a politician who is responsible for the funding of sate universities in Connecticut. Also, the universities you mention are not-for-profit. They don't have owner's to whom profits would be paid out to. Just because universities charge tuition does not mean that they generate profits. Anon did not state that tuition is free, so I do not know why you claimed that he did.

I am not really criticizing Dubai and its corporate entities. What they do is offer work to Subcontinentals. The Subcons know wht they're getting into: Dh 500/month, 10 to a room in a labor camp, long hours in the desert heat, etc. Nobody is forcing them to take these jobs. One can assume that they willingly take these jobs because they are better than any other alternative they have.

If Dubai can find people who are willing to work for so little, why should they pay more? So where does the "blame" lie?

(Of course, this does not excuse the illegal actions like not paying people on time, not providing them with enough water, beating them, etc. There is a real problem with the authorities looking the other way and not prosecuting these matters, often because the offenders are basically part of the ruler's business empire.)

You a right, Rosh, in that this is a political statement by Fleischmann. He is, after all, a politician.

Another point: if Dubai wants to play on a first-world stage, they'll probably need to employ first-world minimum wages and labor standards, or else there'll be more rejections like this.

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