Sunday, September 11, 2011

Letters from Egypt: American University in Cairo Brief

American University in Cairo Photo Source: Green Prophet
With all the ongoing problems within Egypt, it's not entirely shocking that one of the so-called top universities in the country would be wrought with corruption.

Finding nepotism at the highest level within the American University in Cairo (AUC), look at latest president and American Lisa Anderson. Anderson is married to a New York City lawyer who has been given the job to play a role in the university’s sustainability department, which will be a part of the engineering sector. Not only is her husband not an engineer, AUC employees told me that he has no background in the sector – which includes green energy (ie hydropower, solar power, biofuels, etc).

The former AUC provost that took over as president in January 2011, holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, an MA in law and diplomacy from Tufts University and a PhD in political science from Columbia.  She is the author of Pursuing Truth, Exercising Power: Social Science and Public Policy in the Twenty-first Century, editor of Transitions to Democracy and co-editor of The Origins of Arab Nationalism. Apparently Anderson has been in the Middle East for too long and forgot that with all of her democratic rhetoric, nepotism does not coincide with equality. She is the first female to be appointed president of the university and if this recent appointment is any indicator, I'm sure she is doing a great job...

Meanwhile, a dean of one of the engineering departments at AUC has decided that although some students have met their requirements to graduate, he isn’t ready to release them and will not allow anyone to graduate until 2012. Perhaps he is too fearful that the students are not equipped to survive in the real world or maybe, just maybe, he is trying to gain more money for the university by forcing the students to stay an unnecessary semester.

And finally, students at AUC are now on strike…shocking. Tuition fees have increased from LE 60,000 to LE 66,000 ($10,084 to $11,092) and like every other facet in this country, well, a protest is now in order.

Some students are staging a sit-in while others are walking around banging on things all the while refusing to go to class. And I asked a professor at AUC, “Well, how is this different from when they’re not protesting?” Back track a couple of months ago during final exam time when I traveled to AUC to get my computer repaired. I was sitting in my friend’s office doing work – a professor (although I cannot say which department for obvious reasons) – while students piled into the office to negotiate their grades. Their arguments were null and void, mostly idiotic, and all revolved around failure to attend lectures and complete CORE course requirements. And this is the future of Egypt. Mabruk.

*Disclaimer: There are so many more nuances to add to the AUC story and maybe later I will add more detail. For now, this is just a brief*

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