Thursday, February 16, 2006

Yet even more on Dubai Cartoon Firing Fracas

The Good news is that Andrew Hirst has his job back - at least for the semester. He doesn't want to make any further comments at this time, and I can't say that I blame him. It must have been an awful shock to find out that he was fired because of someone's text message, and then another shock to find out that the University's President - and Minister of Education - realized he'd made an error and copped to it... however back-handedly.

I'm not entirely sure of the following chronology, but it looks like what happened next is that the students who were upset went to see Andrew and asked to change teachers. He told them no, they couldn't change classes because that was against school policy, hence his role in "defending" her. After that, they banged out a text message full of innacuracies - including Andrew's small, unwitting part in it - and sent it to their friends, who sent it to their friends, and around and around...

The text message eventually wormed its way to Sheikh Nahyan, and he made one of those "fire first and ask questions later" decisions that are all-too-emblematic of high-level governmental and economic decisions in the UAE. I'm told the head of the English Program at ZU, Bryan Gilroy, went to bat for Andrew and got him reinstated not long thereafter.

Claudia is still fired, though. And after corresponding with her, I've learned that no one's gotten the story right. I'm going to hold off on saying more on that until she's well clear of the UAE, though - she's been given time to settle her affairs, sell her things and head home, rather than being frog-marched to the airport, and rocking the boat right now might not be in her best interests.

Having said that, I think the way they've handled both the timing of her exit from Dubai, and Andrew's reinstatment, show that even they know a mistake has been made on their part. You would think that, having been accused of blaspheming Islam and defaming the Prophet - or "defending" that act - both her and Andrew would have spent Valentine's Day back in their home countries?

And yet they're not.

Put it another way: early on in ZU's history, we had an IT Guru (who shall remain nameless) who was hired by the university to create the programs it would use. The resulting programs were overpriced, wonky crap that no one liked, and the Guru had the personality of Rodney from Stargate: Atlantis, only without the charm. But the folks upstairs hired him, and only ever heard good things from the people they tended to listen to - including said Guru - so the staff and faculty suffered under the reign of crap.

Then the folks upstairs sent around a fact-finding team to look into how the budget was being spent. They were told pointblank - by someone who knew what she was talking about - that better programs were available as shareware. And maybe a month and a half later, the Guru was abruptly fired, and abruptly sent home. It might not have been a 24-hour turnaround, but it was not a leisurely, "affairs in order" deal, either.

There's some speculation as to the reasons he was fired, ranging from expensive incompetence to falsely-laid charges of theft. But why is it that someone being paid way too much money for their jobs - an everyday occurence in the UAE - gets the swift boot while overly-publicized "idolatry" does not?

I think they had to be seen to be doing something in the light of possible public outrage, and figured it was better to fire two people than have an angry mob outside - or inside - the school.


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