President Lisa Anderson agreed to meet with students and staff members on strike at the HUSS building last Thursday Sept. 15, after a week of continuous protests against university policy in front of the administration building.
The meeting came a day after the forum held by the senior administration in Bassily Hall was boycotted by students and workers, whom by the end of the day took their protest to the administration building in the form of a sit-in in front of President Anderson’s office.
“We are one; this is a strike for the workers, students, and security men alike,” shouted Ahmed Ezzat, the Student Union Vice President.
During the HUSS meeting with President Anderson, representatives of the different sectors on campus stated their demands in public.
“We are all here in support and solidarity of the different sectors on campus, especially the AUC workers with all their sectors. Transparency could be achieved through the solidarity of all the community,” said Dr. Hanan Sabea, associate professor of anthropology.
Despite stating in an email that was sent to the AUC community Wednesday evening that President Anderson will “dedicate the entire day to discuss the demands,” she walked away unexpectedly after two hours of discussion with the students and workers, leaving behind an angry and astonished crowd.
“The attitude of the administration now is the same one as that of last year’s when we went on strike. We have been meeting with them for a year, sometimes in meetings that have lasted for seven hours, during which we studied eight unjustified points that needed to be changed in our contracts,” said Waleed Shebl, the custodians’ representative.
“We also demand an equality between all employees. Some of our colleagues at work receive a 200 L.E. food allowance, while level one custodians do not,” he added.
Throughout the meeting, Anderson denied her knowledge of many of the issues faced by the staff daily, especially those that are related to the harsh working conditions and lack of respect they reportedly receive form their supervisors.
“We are not able to use the bathrooms that are around the campus. Is it possible for someone that works for 16 hours a day not to have enough time for a toilet break or to use the toilets near by,” said Antar Nageh, representative of the Desert Development Center (DDC) workers.
Anderson replied that if such a rule does in fact exist, it would be terminated as soon as possible.
When informed by Nageh that the supervisors of the DDC workers use degrading language when dealing with them, Anderson replied that there have been complaints of such treatment and that there will be trainings given to people in higher positions on how to deal with their employees.
Anderson insisted that a committee has to be formed in order to look at these demands with regards to budget calculations in order to determine if they can fit into the university’s budget or not.
The security were then given the time to state their demands, which included a raise in their salary to reach 2,000 L.E., returning the 60 hours overtime, and giving contracts to the 55 bus security personnel.
To these demands, Anderson replied that there were no promises made and that the security guards will be raised to a higher level in the hierarchal organization.
“The university needs to have the flexibility of employing people on short-term contracts and terminating them when they are no longer needed. After the revolution, we were in need of security on buses and those hired for this job will not be needed once matters settle down. If the security thought that this was a way for them to get a contracted job at AUC, then this is their own misunderstanding,” she explains.
Security have also been calling for the removal of Mahmoud Zouk, the Executive Director for Public Safety, due to his unjust treatment to the security men on campus, telling them that he has no mercy for those who work with him.
When asked by one of the Alumni whether she accepts that such a person would be working at the university, Anderson refused to answer the question
Matters became uneasy during the meeting when several students began insisting that the president give clear solutions to problems, and some expressed their disappointment that the meeting is not having a real effect, comparing it as being worse than the last email sent to students refusing all the demands.
The President left the meeting abruptly, ending by saying that if students do not see a use in this meeting, then part of the blame lies on the organization of the students.
“It’s a shame that we’re still calling for equality and social justice post-revolution. AUC is no different from the rest of the country. What is happening on campus is just a reflection,” said Gigi Ibrahim, AUC alumni and political activist.
Gehad Abaza and Mennat Youssef