Several faculty members and students attended the forum held by President Lisa Anderson and the senior administration at Bassily Hall last Wednesday Sept. 14.
Along with President Anderson, the forum was hosted by VP for Planning Brain MacDougall, VP for Finance Fouad Sayess, VP for Student Affairs Asfraf El Fiqi, and Provost Medhat Haroun.
The forum, which lasted for two and a half hours, was proposed in order to find a solution to the issues facing the groups who are striking which include the Desert Development Center (DDC), security, custodians, and students.
Many refused to attend in protest to a recent email sent by Anderson where most of the demands were either refused or could only be solved after a committee is formed to study the matter.
The striking movement proposed to hold the forum in front of the administration building and HUSS where the week-long sit-in took place instead.
At the beginning of the forum, Student Union President Ahmed Alaa was present to say, “Now that the fees have increased and the workers cannot afford to pay for their daily expenses, we cannot stay quiet. The official place for the strike is the HUSS and we will be there and Dr. Lisa we would appreciate it if you join us.”
Some of the problems addressed at the forum were those of transparency and budget allocation, where students asked for the budget to be made public for everyone from students to beneficiaries to parents.
“We have raised the salaries of the workers from 750 Egyptian pounds to 1,180 pounds. Custodians are getting two Saturdays per month off. As for the budget, we have announced that there will be a forum held next week where the budget will be discussed,” replied Brian MacDougall, Vice President for Planning and Administration.
Other issues discussed were those of the nine percent increase in tuition, to which President Anderson replied that the inflation rate in Egypt is high and while there are students that can pay the full tuition fees, there are those who cannot and will need financial aid. She also added that this tuition increase is not unique to AUC.
“The percentage increase is not only the case in Egypt; across Europe and the U.S., universities have increased tuition at a percentage that is higher than that of the country. Inflation rates in Egypt are higher than nine percent,” she added.
Many students raised the problems they face while registering for their courses saying the increase in the fees is unjustifiable since no new classes were opened and they are still unable to enroll in the classes they need.
To that, Provost Haroun responded that in the near future, a time he estimated to be in November 2011, students would be able to register for any class they need. However, he has not explained the process through which this will be achieved.
Some of the security’s demands were also raised during the forum including the overtime demanded by the security guards and a raise in their salaries. While President Anderson replied that the administration has been slow to address these issues, she also insisted that working for 60 hours is not recommended for the workers.
As the forum ended, students and some staff members from the audience were upset by the seemingly empty answers presented by the administration, and that no real decision was reached regarding the issues.
“We have to speak to the Board of Trustees,” said Amira Gabr, an AUC alumnus and one of the organizers of the strike.
“They are the ones who take the decisions and have real power to pressure the university,” she added while speaking at the sit-in in front of the administration building.
Mohamed El Gendy, a Student Service Center employee who attended the forum, described what took place at the forum as “the administration is speaking with itself,” addressing the striking mass at HUSS.