Second University Forum Leaves The american university in cairo Administration Disappointed and Students Furious BY Mariam Seif, Reem Mohamed and Hanien Gaballah

Faculty, staff and students gathering in Bassily Auditorium to discuss solutions regarding the tuition increase.

Photo by Hanien Gaballah

AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone offering a short-term solution concerning the deferred payment issue.

Photo by Mariam Seif

AUC Student Union President Amr El-Alfy.

Photo by Reem Mohamed

Watch this video to get an overview of how the forum turned out.

Dissatisfaction of President Ricciardone and Dean George Marquis as students start chanting.

Photo by Mariam Seif

Infographic showing the main events that took place since the floatation of the EGP.

Click here to view the infographic in detail.

Anthropology student, Ayah Abo-Basha, at the microphone interrupting President Ricciardone's speech.

Also pictured (from left to right): President Ricciardone, SU President El-Alfy, an unidentified AUC security guard and Dean Marquis.

Photo by Mariam Seif

AUC SU President Amr El-Alfy voicing the demands of the students.

Photo by Reem Mohamed

Infographic showing the students' demands that were voiced during the strike.

Click here to view the infographic in detail.

Students expressing their disapproval during the university forum.

Photo by Hanien Gaballah

El-Alfy's disappointment shows while listening to Dean Marquis's proposals.

Photo by Reem Mohamed

Second University Forum Leaves Administration Disappointed and Students Furious

American University in Cairo, Egypt, Nov. 10. — AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone announced in a university forum, held on Wednesday, that the university’s Board of Trustees authorized the payment of the remaining tuition fee installment to be paid at a fixed exchange rate of 8.88 Egyptian pounds (EGP) to a US dollar (USD).

On Nov. 3rd, the Central Bank of Egypt took a decision to float the Egyptian pound against all foreign currencies. Floating the EGP meant that its value would decrease drastically against the USD. It immediately became a problem for AUC students since they pay half of their tuition in USD and the other half in EGP. The floatation almost doubles their tuition. An AUC forum was held on Nov. 7th to discuss the impact of floating the Egyptian pound on tuition fees. It resulted in widespread student protests and a strike in front of the Administration Building. A second forum was held on Wednesday at Bassily Auditorium to find solutions for the increase in tuition due to the devaluation of the EGP.

AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone.

Ricciardone emphasized the importance of finding solutions that diminishes the chances of students withdrawing from university for being unable to pay its tuition. The short-term solution approved by The Board of Trustees was fixing the exchange rate at 8.88 EGP for the upcoming Nov. 20th deferred-payment installment. Ricciardone has been AUC's president for only three months, and there's a lot to learn about the financial intricacies of the university's structure. For example, fixing the exchange rates is unprecedented since the payment of tuition fees in USD and EGP became policy in 2014. Ricciardone hinted that the administration could work on reducing the percentage of the tuition paid in dollars if it would take pressure off students, and that increasing salaries for faculty and staff, both of whom are negatively affected by the devaluation, is a possibility.

He stated that he’s travelling to Washington next week “seeking help from the State Department and USAID (The United States Agency for International Development) and meeting with private donors in New York.” He assured that AUC is resilient and will continue to prosper regardless of any crisis it faces, “We will do better than survive, we will prosper.”

Student Union President Amr El-Alfy.

During the forum, the students weren’t shy about vocalizing their opinions, for instance, an anthropology student, Ayah Abo-Basha, passed the security guards and stormed on stage with a box full of packed food in response to the president’s quote from the first forum, “there is no such thing as free lunch.” Hours prior to the forum, Student Union president Amr El-Alfy was told that he won’t be joining the president on stage, yet he still managed to address the masses, ask Ricciardone questions and demand long-term solutions. In response to the administration not mentioning long-term solutions and not giving El-Alfy a place on stage, he told Ricciardone, “I’m sorry to tell you that I don’t trust you and I don’t trust the administration.”

President Francis J. Ricciardone and Dean George Marquis.

Infographic showing the evolution of the tuition fees, as well as the USD rate to the EGP from 2013 to 2017.

Click here to view the infographic in detail.

Students were not satisfied with Ricciardone’s proposals. They see the short-term solution he offered was a ‘given’ that was bound to happen, rather than a proposal. They wanted him to address long-term solutions regarding upcoming semesters. Not only did they hold banners and chant during the meeting expressing their mistrust of the administration, but also, they accused Ricciardone of “maintaining empty diplomatic rhetoric” and dodging questions on their Student Union’s Facebook page. Unsatisfied with the forum, the students marched from Bassily Auditorium protesting and resuming their strike in front of the Administration Building. According to AUC student Marwan El-Hadidy, who attended the forums and protests, the students want the administration to use its endowment for funds rather than increase the tuition fees.

The students’ reactions disappointed both Ricciardone and the Dean of Students George Marquis. The repeatedly said that the forum would end if it would turn into a rally, yet the students continued chanting. Marquis’ final words on stage were that the students’ reaction was “such an insult” to the administration.

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Photos Mariam Seif, Reem Mohamed and Hanien Gaballah

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