The American University in Cairo’s Board of Trustees boasts a number of distinguished individuals who contribute tremendously to the financial affairs of the university. Among this group of notable benefactors are prominent scholars, diplomats, businessmen, and politicians who dedicate a considerable amount of time and money to promoting AUC as a world-class institution. The board itself consists of about 53 people who come together three times a year: typically twice in New York and once in Cairo, according to the AUC website. It is also important to note that the trustees do not receive money from the university, which means they are volunteers.
The trustees themselves are prominent individuals involved in academics and international business and politics. Some noteworthy names are Nobel laureates Dr. Ahmed Zewail and Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei (also an Egyptian presidential hopeful), AUC President Lisa Anderson, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Goldman Sachs Gives Dina Habib Powell, prominent businessman and National Democratic Party (NDP) member Moataz Al Alfi, and former CEO of the Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco Abdallah S. Jum’ah to name a few.
The board is made up of the officers including the chair, vice chair, treasurer, and secretary – the trustees themselves and advisory trustees. Mention of the board was brought about last semester when AUC was in the process of electing a new president. The board brought forth potential candidates and ultimately elected Lisa Anderson as president of AUC. These are the kind of decisions and activities that take place on the board.
Many of the trustees have also contributed to the construction of the new campus by immortalizing their names on structures such as rooms, halls, buildings, and sports facilities. Since the Jan. 25 uprisings in Egypt, many have questioned the integrity of some of these structures’ namesakes, namely the “Her Excellency” Suzanne Mubarak Conference Hall.
Another university building that has come under scrutiny is the Moataz Al Alfi Hall in the Campus Center. As CEO of a number of companies including Egypt Kuwait Holding and Americana Food Corp. and a close associate of the Mubarak family, his business ventures are among some that dominate the Egyptian economy.
He is also involved in a number of philanthropic and public service organizations including the National Cancer Institute Foundation, under the leadership of former First Lady Suzanne Mubarak. Al Alfi is also vice chairman of the Future Generation Foundation which works to promote economic development of the private sector. The organization’s chairman is Gamal Mubarak.
Ambassador Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama’s envoy to Cairo, is also involved in AUC’s affairs as a trustee. He served as ambassador to Egypt from 1986 to 1991 and is a personal friend of former president Mubarak, according to the New York Times.
Controversy arose during the protests when he insisted that Mubarak stay in power, after Wisner’s close financial ties with the regime were revealed. Wisneris also chairman of external affairs for American International Group (AIG) Egypt, which is one of the university’s chief insurance companies. There have been recent efforts to oust supporters of the Mubarak regime from the Board of Trustees, as well as calls for Wisner to resign.
As the Mubarak regime slowly continues to crumble, efforts to remove traces of it from the university’s trustees and other decision-making bodies become more apparent. In order to move forward towards a freer Egypt, it is important to investigate the figures that make up our institutions and organizations. The AUC community must take a stand against corruption, both on and off campus. The Independent will continue to report on AUC’s Board of Trustees throughout the semester in an effort to promote transparency and dialogue between the AUC administration and the rest of the AUC community.