By Mohamed Kouta
A new campus movement calling itself the Students Rights Coalition (SRC) is spearheading efforts to stand against recent University policies, which it says are controversial.
The SRC says the Tobacco-Free Campus and the Campus Access Policies have stirred both confusion and outrage for faculty and students alike.
On February 22, a group of students who identified themselves as the newly formed SRC organized a protest outside the Administration Building against the smoking ban.
The demonstrators lit cigarettes and proceeded to argue with the security personnel who came to direct them to the designated smoking areas.
The SRC also objected against the Campus Access Policy, which was implemented last semester and has a ected the ability of students doning the niqab (face veil) to enter campus.
“Students need to be heard loud and clear, their problems need to be resolved one way or another,” a representative, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Caravan.
The SRC entered the University Senate meeting on February 27 to distribute a pamphlet that read: “This is a message from the students who at rst beleived that they were being alienated by the adminsitration from all decision- making processes. However, it has become quite obvious, during today’s meeting, that the faculty are also being alienated and live under the same fear that decisions may go against their best interest. We can change this.”
The pamphlet ends with a call for action as a “unified” body, but no further action has taken place yet.
Both the Tobacco-Free and the Campus Access policies have since then by the Student A airs Committee (SAC) and the Academic A airs Committee (AAC) of the University Senate with Executive Vice-President (EVP) for Administration and Finance Brian MacDougall last Tuesday.
The two Senate bodies objected to the number of designated smoking areas available on campus, the academic sanctions meted to policy violators, and raised concerns about the implementation process.
“AUC has had a no-smoking policy since the opening of the New Cairo campus. One of the problems was non-compliance. When the Senate passed the motion [in 2015], it was an expression of frustration. We got to Tobacco-Free as an acknowledgement that AUC should be a leader with respect to health and the environment,” MacDougall said.
Unlike its predecessor, the current policy says that student violators will rst receive a warning, then be provided the option of attending a six-hour education program or paying an EGP 500 ne, followed by further financial penalties before finally being forced to reduce their course load.
For faculty and staff , the first two levels are the same but instead of being asked to pay EGP 500, a half days salary will be deducted. Further violations will entail more deductions in salary.
Senators said they were concerned by a policy clause which allowed AUC to terminated employment if a fth violation is committed but MacDougall said that this was compliant with Egyptian Labor Law.
The Labor Office allows employers to terminate employment upon the third violation, he said.
The SAC recommends that the sanctions be capped at the highest monetary fine, level four. Both reduced course load and termination of employment are excessive, they agreed.
“The sanctions are very aggressive. We shouldn’t be okay with them,” Chair of the SAC and Professor of Practice of Journalism Mervat Abou Oaf said.
“How do you get a community to respect the light? The penalties are much more severe here than they are in America,” SAC member and Assistant Professor of Management Ahmed Hassanein said.
SAC believe that AUC should instead seek nancial penalties, especially following MacDougall’s con rmation that money collected from policy violators will be allocated to student financial aid.
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Sherif El-Kassas’ also suggested that such funds be allocated to welfare in the form of ‘quit smoking’ campaigns.
El-Kassas added that although the 2015 policy did not have sanctions, it was achieved through community consensus.
“The new policy has not followed this. A select number of individuals decided that this will be the policy,” he said.
But MacDougall said that the 2015 policy was not enforced and carried no punitive measures, which lead to widespread non-compliance.
“We have to get to a point of understanding the need for compliance … In order for a policy to have teeth, there [have]to be some identifiable sanctions,” MacDougall said.
MacDougall further added that in case of disputes between security and either students or faculty members, video surveillance can be used to determine whether a violation has occurred.
Students and faculty say there has been no community-inclusive debate on the issue, which is the cause of the current frustration and dissatisfaction.
The SAC has asked the Student Union (SU) and Student Senate to draft a list of non-academic violations in hopes of gaining greater student inclusion in the policy-making process.