By Soha Fayed and Mohamed Kouta
Last week, Business Administration Senior Hussein Khattab was chosen as Chief Justice of the Student Court, the main judicial body of student government. He had first joined the Student Court as a sophomore during his third semester in Fall 2015. After serving his two-year term, he was nominated by Student Union (SU) President Mohamed Gadalla and later confirmed by the Student Senate.
Khattab shared his vision for the Court and student government with The Caravan.
What do you think the way forward for student government is?
I think the SU should become more invested in political representation, because that’s what’s missing. This is what’s concerning, and it should come from both the SU and the student body.
For example, in the tuition fees strike, the SU took the momentum from the student body. There was direction, but right now, I think the government is being very reactive. And this is also because there’s a feeling of lost hope in the student body for any potential change. Tuition went up, but life moved on.
It’s easy for me to criticize it as an outsider, but my point is that negotiations always end the same. We’re always asking for consultation, and every time they respond by saying it’s a non-negotiable security issue. There should be regular sessions, like former President Lisa Anderson’s ‘Tea and Talk’ where we can discuss issues like these.
How can you add to this as Chief Justice?
My role isn’t political representation, but I am in charge of one of the three branches: the executive, which is the SU, the legislative, which is the Senate and the judicial, which is the Court. But these issues are all delegated to the Chair of Political Representation, but there should be more connection between the three branches, with the associations, with the clubs. The government has to work on expanding its reach to the student body, and all of the branches should be more accessible.
What do you believe are the Court’s greatest drawbacks?
I think what wasn’t done very well before was the management of the Court members. It was centralized more than it needs to be.
I also don’t like how the Court is not engaging enough with enrolled students.
I find this a major drawback since most students confuse the Student Court with either the Student Senate or even the SU. So, the biggest drawback is the lack of knowledge that students have about the Student Court.
How does the Court interact with the Senate and Union?
We attend all Senate meetings, but mainly just to make sure that everything is following procedure. We’re there on standby to step in once something goes wrong procedurally.
Is there tension between the student government bodies?
Right now there isn’t, but I remember a time when there was. But I also think it’s when the government was more productive. Everyone was trying to prove themselves, and that struggle made the government more productive.
But the tension is usually between the Senate and the Union, because the Senate can easily refuse to pass the budget if a dominant camp – the informal political parties on campus – isn’t satisfied. When there’s deadlock like this, we try to mediate.
How does the Court achieve this?
We try to do this within our scope. So, we introduced this mechanism where those who vote no have to provide a justification for example. We can also step in when new problems come up, such as an issue with budget approval in the winter and summer semesters, where the Union is active but the Senate doesn’t meet.
What do you see are the greatest loopholes in the Student Body Constitution?
For example, the Electoral Commissioner has no term period, so one person can keep the position for their entire time at AUC.
There’s also the problem of student declaring majors just to win seats in the Senate. But now we also have voters declaring majors to guarantee a member from their camp gets the seat. The Constitution doesn’t have any provisions against this, and it’s difficult to try and come up with one that could deal with this issue.
Budget approval is also another major concern. The budget can be put on hold for months on end while the SU continues to finance delayed projects from the previous semester’s approved budget – the budget for Spring 2018 has still not been presented to the Senate.
While the Student Senate’s Legislative Committee has the jurisdiction to amend the Student Body Constitution, I hope they will consult with the Court to do so.
But these loopholes aren’t really barriers that prevent effective government, but it’s more the lack of accountability and cooperation.