Lisa Anderson reflects on the student-led strike
The Caravan interviewed AUC President Lisa Anderson following the suspension of the student-led strike
How do you feel about the agreements reached with different constituents?
I'm pleased and proud of how we ultimately came to terms, I think the turn over the weekend to what I described as collective bargoning was very fruitful. There isn't any way that an administration can negotiate with itself, it needs to be talking to the people who have concerns and proposals. I think the only thing that we all need to keep in mind is that this is just the beginning, this is not something that's finished so it isn't a conclusion, it is a closing of the first chapter. There's a lot to be done, I think we did lay out a set of principles for how it should be done, which is an open and collaborative one, but I think we're all going to be tired, there's a lot to do.
Is it true that 55 safety temporary employees were let go recently? What are the details of what happened?
We realized after an agreement with the Independent Syndicate there are subsequent staff issues that also need to be addressed, these constituencies aren't the only ones we need to deal with the particular problem was urgent so it couldn't have been put off a week, they were getting notifications that they were supposed to be not reporting for work tomorrow. We spent a fair amount of time developing what we think is a fair and equitable arrangement for them.
We did make several important strides in managing our labor relations more effectively. One of the things that was a problem is they had no written terms of their engagement, they had no contract, nothing that they could bring to us, nor did we have anything on file either. So that left them in jeopardy. They have no formal standing to make grievances; as they go out into the job market, they had no evidence that they worked here. That's clearly not right so we need to be able to provide everybody, to a test of their satisfactory work performance here at AUC, so they can get a recommendation.
We offered a financial settlement and we agreed to acknowledge formally their employment here.
One of the things that the students agreed to do, which I thought was quite brilliant, was to start saying that we have a pool of experienced security officers, if anyone's looking to hire them. The SU is going to help us with that.
One of the main demands of the security guards was the removal of Mahmoud Zouk from office. Why do you think so many of the protesters have problems with him? If the committee finds him guilty of allegations, is his removal a possibility?
[Laughs] Mahmoud Zouk wasn't the only one being chanted about. I think part of the reason people are against him is because they don't know him and they don't what he's been doing, so they don't know that part of what he's been trying to do is actually make more systematic, clearer and more transparent the responsibility that security officers have and how they're evaluated. He was hired essentially as a reform measure. The people who ran the security operation before were sort of ‘old regime' and so he was deliberately hired to run security and safety operation in a more new, a more transparent and more systematic way.
I think as people start to realize that and see what his intent is, I think that they will find that.. he and the protesters are actually on the same page. We're trying to get a system where security are trained for public safety, that they have appropriate background and skills, that they understand the purposes of the university.
Some of the grivances addressed by the labor rights oversight committee are quite serious, and if it concluded that the grievances are merited [...] then I have to assume something between serious discipline and the departure from the university would be the appropriate response, but that's a matter of principle and process.
Referring back to the ‘old regime', one of the protesters' main demands since last semester was the removal of staff who somehow represented it, such as Dabbour. Is his employment under any threat whatsoever seeing that he has an association with the NDP, for example?
In a broader scale, I don't think just because you were a member of the Baath party, you should be excluded from any responsibility in Iraq. But it's a matter of actually examining the performance of the individual.
My view is that merely having been a member of a partiulat political party does not exclude you from public life.
There were other complaints about the management of OSD that could have been complaints registered against anyone whether or not they were a member of a political party. We examined those complaints and I am confident that at this point, we are where we ought to be with OSD, which is being transformed.
How about the position of AUC Counsellor, who is meant to liason between the government and the university and was previously occupied by Amr Salama?
Nothing has changed [regards the position, which has been mandated in the protocol which governs AUC's operations in Egypt.
Do you think it is likely that the board of trustees will accept a student representative?
Some university trustees in the states have designated positions for alumni, and there are a very modest number of university trustees who have a student representative, but it's not unheard of.
Right now, there are alumni on the trustees but there's not an alumni seat, so they're negotiating whether they should have one.
Then you say maybe there should be a student seat. I think they're going to take it seriously, but I have no idea what they're going to decide.
I would urge them to talk to some other trustees of universities in the states that have them, and discuss the pros and cons.
There have been allegations that one of your personal body guards had a physical alter-action with SU VP Ahmed Ezzat. Is there any truth to these allegations?
That allegation will be taken up in the context of the student disciplinary procedure. I think it's inappropriate for me to comment.
You mentioned in your agreement with students that disciplinary cases would still be filed against some. Do you feel that is necessary?
As I said to them, I don't believe in impunity in Egypt, and I don't believe in impunity in AUC. I think the idea that cases are not examined is not appropriate.
There has been criticism of you hiring your husband as director of sustainability. This has driven some to think that the position was created specifically for him. What is your response to that claim?
We have been talking about developing a sustainability coordinator position for a while, and the trustee who is supporting this initiative said that the support he is providing is person-specific and that he wanted to bring my husband and his skills.
So it was the trustee who said let's ‘kill two birds with one stone' and get the project up and running and use that experience.