The low turnout of students in last week’s planned strike against the increase in tuition fees caused a stir among the AUC community, and a growing concern over student involvement and engagement with the administration.
Many student activists at the American University in Cairo believe in the power that students hold, and the strength they can impose on the administration to change unjustified decisions.
Yet a small number of AUC students continue to show up at such events on campus whether it was related to political and international issues, or ones related to the university itself.
“If students wish to achieve something they have the ability to do so. We have already seen miracles happen in Egypt and students at AUC should be able to do the same,” said Youssef Mourad, AUC student activist and one of the organizers for the several tuition strikes that took place on campus.
Three months after calling for a strike against the nine-percent tuition increase at AUC, only a small number of students were present at the strike that took place on the first day of classes.
About a hundred students walked through the campus on Sept. 4 last chanting, “We will not pay a penny” in protest to the recent tuition increase which many see as unjustified.
“I didn’t participate at the strike because when I went there to see what was happing (in front of the administration building), there were about twenty students. I think people will just remain seated and will not do anything about it just like they always do,” said Aly Khairy, a finance student.
Members of the Student Union and other activist movements on campus have been holding meetings with the AUC community to inform them of the tuition strike. After the low turnout of students at the strike, the organizers believed that it was more important to teach students of the consequences of their silence and apathy rather than holding the strike itself.
“Students must know that we (organizers) will be there till the end to make this succeed, and that we will go for our cause as far as it takes, but they must know that we will not be able to make this succeed by ourselves; it takes everyone to stand for their rights and they have stop being silent and stand for their rights,” said Mourad.
The SU held a meeting with the administration last Sunday presenting them with seven demands proposed on behalf of the students which included placing a cap on tuition fees for continuing students, removing the over-time money that organizations on campus have to pay to security guards during events, and exten the deadline for paying fees.
The only demand that was met was adding an extension to paying the fees, which will go on until Sept. 11. However, the administration refused implementing tuition caps and removing the tuition increase, which many students find unjust.
“The university would probably have the right to increase the tuition fees if they were improving the quality of education over the years. Since our move to the new campus, things have been getting worse. They are not recruiting new (faculty members); they are cutting back on scholarship money and department budgets, so there is no comparison between what we pay and the decreasing quality of education we receive,” said Maha EL Banna, a senior who stated that this would be her second time as an AUC student to strike against the tuition increase.
Some student activists are still hopeful that a large number of students will participate in the coming strike. “If you pursue it, it will happen. Otherwise students should expect the administration to treat them in any way they like, and they will find it hard to disagree,” said Mourad enthusiastically. “People usually talk in the air, but I will be attending all the strikes organized,” said el Banna.