Members who participated in day five of the strike last Thursday brought down the American flag near the Student Service Center after the AUC administration reportedly refused to listen to students’ and staff members’ demands.
This occurred as a result of an already inflamed situation, when President Lisa Anderson reportedly left an open forum in the HUSS courtyard earlier than planned, even though she promised to answer questions the whole day.
The controversial act was meant to be symbolic; students including Student Union President Ahmed Alaa wanted to present the flag to President Anderson to remind her of the American values that have a place at AUC.
AUC alumnus and activist Gigi Ibrahim further describes the incident as a peaceful one.
“Taking down the flag was purely a symbolic, peaceful action which (President Anderson) was the main trigger of. The flag represents the principles, which Lisa stands for when she disrespected all the reasonable demands of the students. The students were angered and decided to bring down the flag and bring it to her office,” Ibrahim explains.
To demonstrate that the act was not meant to be political or anti-American in nature, students then proceeded to take down the rest of the displayed flags, which included the Egyptian flag and the flag of the American University in Cairo.
Ibrahim explains, “The action of taking down the flag was not politically driven; it was a response to the dismissal of all the legitimate demands and Lisa disrespectfully leaving the forum. It was a collective decision (from the students) out of anger and desperation.”
Ahmed Abou Laban, an AUC alumnus and one of the initiators of the incident, gave his take on the incidents leading up to the removal of the flags.
“We were waiting for someone to come out and give an official apology from Lisa Anderson as to why she left the HUSS forum in the middle, and if she would re-schedule a meeting for another time,” he explains.
After students became more frustrated with the administration’s turn of events, they headed towards the portal area where the flags were situated.
“I don’t regret taking down the flag. It was not a spontaneous in the literal sense, but it seemed right at the moment,” Abou Laban explains.
However, the act resulted in outcry from the AUC, Egyptian, and international communities. A similar incident occurred ten years ago in AUC’s Tahrir campus in response to the United States’ support for Israel during the Palestinian Intifada of 2000. Students dismantled the American flag in an act of solidarity with Palestinians, and since then the flag has not been displayed at the Tahrir campus, according to Ibrahim.
Omar Ocampo, an American student studying at AUC, was startled and disappointed at the course of action that day took.
“It’s very unfortunate that the American flag is being taken down because the United States has nothing to do with AUC policy (which) is completely independent from the USA. Whether or not they (intended taking down the flag to be) a political gesture, it will interpreted by the global community as a political act against the United States and further delegitimizing people who genuinely want freedom and democracy,” he explains.
Ocampo also believes these events indicate a need to reevaluate AUC’s leadership.
“Lisa Anderson is showing very poor leadership skills and the administration should definitely evaluate whether she is a suitable candidate for president. Not responding to student and worker demands head on especially in the wake of the revolution showed very poor quality of her leadership skills,” he says.
He elaborates, “I think for a solution, the administration should show some transparency, look at what excesses they have, how much the staff is getting paid, and see if any cuts can be made there. Also if students are so worried about workers’ rights, they should pony up and be willing to pay more.”