Students, Employees Strike at American U. in Cairo

September 12, 2011

Students and some employees started a strike Sunday at American University in Cairo, Ahram Online reported. Students organized the protests, focusing on a 9 percent tuition increase that they oppose. A number of non-faculty employee groups joined the protests, citing inadequate wages. Students have put up tents, planning for a long protest.

The protests were organized on a Facebook page, on which students complained about the impact of budget cuts and questioned the quality of their education. "The administration has made a lot of budget cuts from our departments and have limited hiring new professors. This means that we should expect an even worse quality of education due to limited resources," says one statement about the reason to strike. "Services and education at AUC do not measure to what we pay for."

The Ahram article did not quote university officials, but the university provided Inside Higher Ed with a memo sent by Lisa Anderson, the university's president, to students and employees. The memo said that the university has worked hard to provide additional benefits to employees and has added financial aid for needy students. "While the request to rescind the 9 percent tuition increase cannot be met because we continue to run a budget deficit, we are preparing a number of payment plans for the next semester that would allow our students and parents to select from a range of more flexible payment options," the memo said.

Anderson wrote that the university "is committed to a freedom of expression policy that recognizes the right of all members of the AUC community to express their views as they wish, as long as they do not do so in such a way as to disrupt university activities or damage university property." She wrote that "most of the participants in today's protests displayed a high level of commitment to the principles of freedom of expression, integrity and responsibility as members of the community. Unfortunately, small groups of students and staff appear to have violated university policy in using physical force in confrontation with security staff at the gates, vandalizing university property, obstructing access to the campus and disrupting classes. Just as the university is a strong proponent of free expression, it is equally committed to ensuring that all students have access to the education they deserve and that all members of the community are afforded a safe and productive working and learning environment. Violence of any type, especially targeted at security staff, will not be tolerated. To that end, the university's disciplinary action process has begun against all students implicated in using or threatening to use force against security personnel, blocking access to the campus, vandalizing property or disrupting classes."

She said that, anticipating protests today, the university would restrict campus access to one gate. Noting the recent protests in Egypt, she added that "we look to all the members of the AUC community, but particularly to our students -- the leaders of the future -- to serve as an example of how peaceful protest, thoughtful deliberation and reasoned discussion contribute to consensus building and forward progress."

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