By Mohamed Kouta
A number of students representing the Student Union, dorm residents, and AUC athletes met with delegates from the Middle States Accreditation Board last week in a closed meeting to discuss the overall student experience at the Bacon Cary Room.
Outside the venue, a group from the Student Rights Coalition (SRC) stood silently, holding signs that read “Panoptican Cameras”, “Niqab Ban” and “Disrespecting Faculty”, among others, to communicate their dissatisfaction with the University’s current governance structure.
SRC member and Political Science Senior Aseel Azab told The Caravan that their sit-in would have been unnecessary if the university administration would engage in dialogue.
“To the students, we would say that you have a stake in [everything] that happens.”
The MSAB delegation inquired about the extent to which students feel as though they have academic freedom and freedom of expression on campus.
“I think the University has very clear instructions on its freedom of expression guidelines, but at some point these [instructions] are not fully implemented or applied [by the administration],” student senator and Political Science and History Sophomore Dona Emam said.
Emam used the Campus Access policy, which bars individuals who don the niqab from entering campus, as an example of a violation of this right.
Despite the student government’s efforts to provide an alternative to the ban, the administration’s intransigence has prevented finding a middle ground, she said.
However, other students felt that the very fact that students were able to express their frustration with these policies demonstrates that freedom of expression exists on campus.
“These points are true, but whenever we want to, we can voice our opinion. When the fees increased, we had the chance to voice our opinions. We do have freedom of expression to a large extent,” Heidi Kandil, representing the Athletics Office, said to the delegation.
The disconnect, Emam said, is how the University decides to respond to these concerns.
“In reality, our student concerns and how we voice them are ot really taken into consideration,” she said.
However, Emam added that this “alienation” from the decision-making process extends to the faculty as well, referring to the Faculty Senate’s advisory function and the lengthy time it takes for resolutions to get ratified by the President.
“We still don’t get clear instructions as to how policies are being taken or implemented. For example, the security cameras that have been installed, we as students still are unsure how long the footage is taken for, who has access to it and what is the purpose behind them,” she said.
SU President Mohamed Gadalla used the Tobacco-Free Policy to support Emam’s point about the lack of meaningful stakeholder involvement in the policymaking process.
“It’s not always about the policy, but it’s about how it is surveyed and received by the student body and faculty. Sometimes when the right stakeholders aren’t taken in consideration, the policies aren’t for the welfare of the community. Most of the policies are for the welfare of the University, but the way they were implemented is my main concern,” he said.
Architectural Engineering Senior Omar Assem said that while there are officials, like Dean of Students George Marquis, who does heed student concerns, there is not enough student participation in the decision-making process.
The delegation then asked whether the students’ experiences at AUC matched what they were promised during the initial application process.
It immediately became clear that this varied not only from one major to another, but also from one student to another within the major.
“When it comes to the level of academia other than sciences, I haven’t learned a lot and I have to depend on self-study. It’s either you present AUC as a liberal arts institution or you focus on something. I need to know that my major can’t qualify me abroad,” Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Senior and Peer Advising Leadership (PAL) President Emily John said.
“Our business school is very highly accredited, but when it comes to other majors, it’s not the same. This variance should be communicated.”
Tuition was also discussed as a serious concern.
Although students are informed that it is subject to increase on a yearly basis due to inflation, the increase has jeopardized the educational career of many at AUC, Gadalla said.
This sudden increase is a fault in communication and the lack of a central point for regular discussions, John added.
“When we want to implement a policy, they take a certain period of time for assessment and will either implement it or not long after we’re gone. But when they want to implement a policy, they do it the next day. The problem we have is both with consistency and communication,” Assem added.