UConn Halts Dubai Campus Project Amid Israeli Visitors, Human-Rights Issues

The University of Connecticut will hold off on establishing a branch campus in Dubai amid questions about the Persian Gulf country's policy on accepting Israeli visitors and other issues.

"We're trying to slow down and work out everything," university spokeswoman Karen Grava said in an interview Tuesday.

Robert Fishman, executive director of the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, has criticized a policy that bans people with Israeli passports from traveling to Dubai.

Grava cited that ban, saying UConn officials want the university's anti-discrimination policy to apply at all campuses, whether in Connecticut or overseas, she said.

Provost Peter L. Nicholls said in an e-mail to faculty and staff last week that UConn has determined that it is "prudent at this point to hold off on further development work and not further commit any significant staff time until these matters can be resolved," the Journal Inquirer of Manchester reported Tuesday.

He did not specify what those matters are.

Dubai, an oil-rich Persian Gulf nation, had invited UConn and other U.S. colleges and universities to develop and propose higher education programs for the region.

A campus would be expected to draw students from Dubai and other countries throughout that part of the world, and provide overseas study, research and internship opportunities for U.S. citizens, officials said.

But other concerns about the program have also surfaced. Rep. Andrew M. Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, co-chairman of the General Assembly's Education Committee, said he had "serious concerns" about human and worker rights in Dubai.

UConn President Philip Austin informed Gov. M. Jodi Rell last summer that the school had been involved in preliminary discussions with Dubai officials. Research universities such as UConn are moving toward globalization of curriculum and research, he said.

UConn also could become a key player with U.S. industries that have regional offices in Dubai, Austin said.