NYU says Disabilities Act does not apply to Shanghai campus

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NYU says Disabilities Act does not apply to Shanghai campus

New York University says the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to its campus in Shanghai, China, according to its legal filings in a federal discrimination case.

Matthew Belanger, an NYU Shanghai professor, claims in the case before the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he was harassed and demoted by the school after suffering a debilitating back injury.

“NYU Shanghai — a registered Chinese university in Shanghai, China … is neither a U.S. employer nor a foreign entity controlled by a U.S. employer and, therefore, is not covered under Title VII or the ADA as a matter of law,” argued NYU Associate General Counsel Daniel Magida in a July 2020 motion to have the case dismissed.

Chinese law “prohibits a foreign entity from having control of a Chinese academic institution,” Magida continued. “Sino-foreign cooperation educational institutions must be less than 50 percent funded by foreign entities. NYU’s lack of control over NYU Shanghai in this regard is analogous to that of a minority shareholder.”

Belanger, 45, spent eight years as an assistant arts prof at NYU Shanghai.
Belanger, 45, spent eight years as an assistant arts prof at NYU Shanghai.
NYU

Belanger, 45, spent eight years as an assistant arts prof at NYU Shanghai. In 2017 he suffered a disc injury after an awkward exit from a taxi that required a weeklong hospital stay and months of using canes and wheelchairs, and going to physical therapy, he claims.

Belanger said after his injury a promised administrative promotion to assistant dean was rescinded and replaced with an inferior one and he was subjected to retaliation when he complained. He said he was out tens of thousands of dollars as a result.

“What they have done to me is horrible,” Belanger told The Post. “And they need to be held accountable.”

NYU’s defense that it doesn’t run its Shanghai campus stands in marked contrast to their public messaging about the school. NYU-Shanghai Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman told members of Congress in 2015 that NYU would have “absolute control over the school’s curriculum, faculty, teaching style, and operations, and that it would receive an ironclad guarantee that it could operate the school according to the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”

Belanger said many faculty members on the Shanghai campus operated under a “culture of fear.”

Lehman told the electeds that NYU would shut down the campus if academic freedom were threatened in any way.

Over the last decade, NYU has moved to aggressively expand its international footprint. The university now has satellites in Abu Dhabi, Ghana, Australia, Argentina, Israel, the Czech Republic and more.

NYU Journalism professor Mohamad Bazzi criticized the school’s transparency when it comes to the campuses in unfree countries like China.

“Parents who are sending their children to [foreign NYU] campuses are thinking, ‘This is just like NYU.’ I think people need to stop and think that no, these are other countries and other laws apply and NYU doesn’t have the capacity to offer the same protections that it can offer in New York,” Bazzi said.

“It’s been a core problem with these campuses. There’s a total lack of transparency,” he added.

Tuition and associated fees for a year aboard at NYU-Shanghai run an estimated $73,458.

Belanger said many faculty members on the Shanghai campus operated under a “culture of fear.”

NYU Shanghai — a registered Chinese university in Shanghai, China ... is neither a U.S. employer nor a foreign entity controlled by a U.S.
NYU Shanghai — a registered Chinese university in Shanghai, China … is neither a U.S. employer nor a foreign entity controlled by a U.S.
Alamy Stock Photo

“I have seen examples of books arriving that have been censored,” he recalled, saying the school even went so far as to share student work with the government and that during one faculty meeting they discussed the need to “keep [that] out of email”

“NYU Shanghai is in China, and NYU Shanghai employees — including Prof. Belanger — are subject to Chinese employment law. That has nothing to do with NYU’s academic decision-making authority at NYU Shanghai, which has shown itself to be a successful example of open academic inquiry,” NYU spokesman John Beckman told The Post.

Beckman also confirmed that NYU-Shanghai does prepare a list of the titles of students’ final “captstone” graduation projects for the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission — which is required by Chinese law. He said the school did not share specific content with Communist authorities and that students were informed that their info might be shared.

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