AUB Professor Discovers New Chemical Reaction

As a rule of thumb, we feel proud when such discoveries happen at local institutions because we can relate to them somehow.

Today, I feel even prouder because the man that discovered this reaction was my professor at AUB.

Makhlouf Haddadin, a Jordanian professor, has discovered a new reaction which he called the Davis-Beirut reaction, after ten years of testing during which he didn’t come out on Lebanese TV shows to discuss his science, to boost himself among the Lebanese populace, to get some free advertising, etc.

This isn’t his first discovery as well. Prior to Lebanon’s civil war, Dr. Haddadin discovered a reaction which he called the Beirut reaction and which has caused AUB’s Chemistry department to get a huge boost ever since.

According to Dr. Haddadin, his new reaction might serve as a breakthrough in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that mostly manifests in the lungs. You’d probably recognize it as the disease that killed French singer Gregory LeMarchal. It currently has no cure.

My most memorable memory with Dr. Haddadin wasn’t the organic chemistry course I took with him during my Sophomore year. It was when I went to his class on May 7th, 2008 and we were almost 10 people and he gave us a talk about the merits of the country we were in.

He told us that what was happening outside the fences of our campus was reminiscent of things that took place around the civil war in Lebanon. He told us about student uprisings, about how democracy doesn’t work by canceling other opinions, how democracy doesn’t work via violence.

He also told us how lucky we were to be Lebanese, how lucky we were to come from a country where scientific discoveries weren’t stifled by a state that was worried about what such discoveries might entail, how fortunate he was to be working in this country where he felt he could give his all without having a big brother eye overlooking his every experiment, how grateful he was for Beirut to have welcomed him so warmly. He told us that was why he named the reaction he discovered back then after the city that he loved.

He then begged us not to waste our country away because we didn’t know the value of what we had, given the region in which we lived.

Between 2008 and 2013, I daresay we as Lebanese have probably failed Dr. Haddadin. But this man is still grateful to Beirut nonetheless.

AUB Returns to Lebanon

A couple of days ago, I blogged about a mistake on an American research symposium that listed the Lebanese university AUB as located in Israel.

Following the publication of that post, it got picked up by various news outlets, such as L’Orient Le Jour, Annahar, Kataeb and New TV who shed light on the matter as well.

Today, I checked the program of the symposium and it seems the mistake has been corrected: AUB is listed as in Lebanon.

AUB, Lebanon

I was told that such mistakes aren’t always a bad thing as they help shed light on the research they are part in. I personally believe, however, that research should be able to stand on its own merits and not employ such gimmicks in order to turn ears.

We’ll never know the details of how such a mistake remained in the program till a week before the symposium started. But I guess what matters is the bottom line: getting it fixed. Good luck to those who are presenting the research and I hope they do a good job.

AUB Tuition Fees: Where Do You Go Now?

I attended AUB from 2007 till 2010. Back in my days, which were not that long ago, we used to pay for 12 credits only even though we were able to register a maximum of 17 per semester.

I thought the system as it stood back then was great – it allowed me to be a full-time student and graduate on time without overburdening my parents with paying for every single credit that I was forced to take in order to count for the 90 required to get that coveted diploma. In 2010, however, AUB decided they were going to enforce new regulations that would raise the 12 credit standard to 15 for those enrolling in the upcoming semester.

I was graduating that year so it didn’t affect me. But I couldn’t disassociate myself from the notion that those who would come after me would be victims of these regulations that were not only unfounded at the time, but were also supported by baseless arguments that are still being used today. So as part of the AUB student body back then, we had a mass protest across campus. We boycotted classes. We paralyzed the university. We all participated. Then those heading the movement blew it by letting politics seep into it and the movement soon crumbled due to the too many heads that wanted to become leaders and instead of abolishing the tuition fees regulations, we simply postponed them. And they called it a victory – the students who slept on the floor outside College Hall for nights, however, did not. And those generations for whom we protested back then are receiving the short end of the stick we knew they would today.

Ever since I graduated, tuition fees at AUB have increased by 37%, at about $5000 per academic year. The increase includes another 6% hike this year. Technology fees for internet and connectivity on campus have also gone up by 50%. Wasn’t internet supposed to be getting cheaper in this country?

AUB is proud of its financial aid situation. Most applicants receive financial aid, they say. Bu there’s a huge difference between receiving aid in principle and the amount of aid a student gets: a 10% financial aid counts towards the former statistics. But is 10% enough?

AUB personnel who are handling these tuition increases justify them as due to the “increasingly bad economic situation in the country which necessitated such increases in order to keep AUB functional.”

The economic situation is touching everyone. I know of families who are well-off whose situation has deteriorated so rapidly lately that they’ve decided to simply leave. We have no government. Unemployment is reportedly at 42%.  Isn’t this also affecting the parents of the students who are supposed to pay those fees? Is it plausible to have American-type fees in a country where the average income doesn’t come close to the American average?

I guess this is what comes when student elections are more about politics and which political side wins than about those who actually work. As long as this party or that gets a majority at the Student Representatives Council and the USFC later on, everything is okay. There are no issues to raise, I suppose. Where is that free printing again?

It’s easy to dismiss all of this as simply “if you can’t afford AUB, then don’t consider it.” And for the majority of Lebanese people, this is the case. We’d also be delusional to believe that the students attending AUB are people who cannot afford it. But is that also enough reason to simply not talk about the issue and let such tuition prices rise go unchallenged, excluding the portions of Lebanese society that could have, at one point, afforded giving their children the best education that Lebanon could provide?

As an alumnus, there’s not really much I can do. But how about AUB students who are now nagging about these increases actually ask themselves, come November, when they’re voting: AUB tuition fees, where do you go now? Perhaps then they can form a student body that can create a road map to let people know which class of Lebanese gets access to Green Oval and that ugly Zaha Hadid building. 

 

Disfiguring AUB with Zaha Hadid’s Building

Zaha Hadid AUB

Towards the end of my AUB days, someone decided to close down the area that held an infirmary in order for some new construction to take place.

I am not unfamiliar with construction projects at AUB which filled my time when I was there: both the Olayan School of Business and the Hostler student center opened when I was a student. I’m no expert nor do I know anything about architecture but they never struck me as disembodied elements of AUB’s campus.

The building depicted in the above picture is what’s standing in place of the infirmary today. Is it hideous? You bet. Is it an atrocity? Definitely. Does it take away from the charm of AUB’s upper campus? Well, it is a concrete block with holes in it. Again, unprofessional opinion here.

Why is such an ugly building overshadowing Nicely Hall? Because it has Zaha Hadid affixed to it, the world’s most famous architect, who “won” the competition to build this. As if the pull of her name alone isn’t enough to sway the competition.

I have to ask – and it’s obviously too late now for such a question – but didn’t anyone from AUB’s administration get a tinge of nausea as they passed by this growing structure and saw it disfiguring the campus many of them call home? And isn’t the mere presence of such a building disrespectful to the architecture faculty at AUB which is more than capable of coming up with better and more campus-relevant buildings?

But I guess this is how things roll around the country: go with the flashiest, most expensive, most prominent names because that’s sure to be better. Issam Fares- no relation-, after whom this building is named, should probably sue them for libel.

The Relativity of Freedom of Speech in Lebanon

The last few days have taught me that the statement: “I believe in freedom of speech” has to be amended to become the following: “I believe in freedom of speech as long as I agree with the speech.” Beyond that point of agreement, all bets of civility of discourse are off. Bigot, ignorant, racist, condescending, extremist, hypocrite, illiterate or any derogatory word of choice gets dropped in order to counter a point, regardless of what that point may be.

Santa Muerte, Santa Ejre:

I didn’t want to go over anything related to this issue again. It was blown way out of proportion. But my words were taken out of context. Lebanon’s self-anointed blogging police started to ridicule what I had to offer. Somehow this blog being nominated for Blog of the Year at the Social Media Awards became a mark of shame for some people – as if that changed things. News outlets started contacting me for their stories. And I realized that, even though I had actually blogged about the issue, I had never gotten the chance to say what I had to say for my input was very brief. In spite of the issue being overdone at this point, I believe it is my right to tell my point of view in detail. You may want to read it and you may not but here it goes.

I found Bershka shirt, aptly called shirtgate – the Mexican Embassy IS opening a shrine - offensive. Is it my right to find it offensive? You bet it is. Did I call for the shirt to be banned from Lebanese markets? No. Did I say it wasn’t a person’s right to wear the shirt? No I didn’t.

You don’t need google to consider the shirt offensive. Any person’s first impression of what the shirt says is with what they connect it. I believe it was Descartes’ school of thought which said our perceptions are the actions of our mind on our senses. The actions of your mind come from your previous experiences. When Lebanese people look at that shirt, the first thing they’d see is what they previously know: Mary icons present in churches or homes.

What people don’t seem to get is that people have different red lines whose crossing means getting offended. If people are offended by the shirt, it’s okay. If people are not, it’s okay as well because those people have their own lines as well and if they are crossed then they will bring their own fury to being. What’s not okay is some people calling those who are offended bigots, ignorants, etc… For not being aware of Santa Muerte, which 90% of the Lebanese populace wasn’t even aware of prior to yesterday.

This brings me to another point: Santa Muerte is irrelevant. It is not culturally relevant here and it’s being used to iron out the issue by those who want to portray all religious folk in Lebanon as a bunch of narrow-minded individuals. Is the shirt Santa Muerte? It could be. At least that’s what Bershka said. But it could be Our Lady of Guadelupe as well, which is actually present in many Lebanese churches, one of which is in my hometown which could be why I found the shirt print familiar.

The point is: the fact that Santa Muerte is not something most Lebanese are familiar with means that the shirt will be taken offensively. People do not have to google a shirt print. You judge it based on what you know. As an example, alcohol is allowed in Lebanon but it’s not culturally permitted in Saudi Arabia. Would you walk in their streets with a Jack Daniels shirt? Cow meat is allowed here but it’s not culturally allowed in India… how about a shirt with a burger on it? The list goes on.

You may not want to be culturally limited even if you are aware but what I believe many need to realize is there’s more to the world than the space between them and their computer and Twitter followers and, if a person has a blog, readers. We talk and analyze and extrapolate but the fact of the matter remains that less than a third of the Lebanese population has smartphones and not everyone has access to the internet and not everyone likes to read our English-written blogs. I may not get up in a fit if I see someone wearing that shirt on the street but are you willing to bet no one else would?

Only today, I had my legs crossed at a bank in Tripoli when a man asked me to uncross them because he was offended by my shoes’ sole being in the far corner of his eyesight.

Another important thing to note is that Santa Muerte is not a saint nor is it a holy figure. It’s Mexican folklore. Lebanese people who are not aware of their own folklore are supposed to know international folklores as well now? The Catholic Church of Mexico considers those who worship Santa Muerte as heretics-lite. This may not be relevant to those who don’t care what any religious institution has to say but it does for those who do, of which I am not. But there is another aspect to the conversation that is being disregarded because it doesn’t fit with the perfect Santa Whatever explanation.

After all, why would Mexican relatives of mine find the shirt print offensive if it were all that “innocent?”

Another point being raised is that Bershka is simply bringing in their entire collection to Lebanon, which I find to be non-sensical. Do companies always automatically import everything they make into this country without any form of market study or market appraisal? Any look at the shirt would have sufficed to realize it might cause a backlash among many of their customers. The shirt may have not been brought into the country but the price tag of 49,000LL means there was a will to bring it in.

The bottom line is: both sides of the story have arguments in their favor. It goes down to what you believe in. If you believe holy figures should not be demonized then the shirt offends you. If not, then the shirt will not. But people from both sides attacking each other is unacceptable as I witnessed firsthand with people calling me ignorant, a bigot, condescending and a bunch of other things just for the fun of it.

Ziad el Rahbani vs AUB Students:

Nothing can beat Santa Muerte when it comes to attention over the past few days. But the man of whom I am not a fan Mr. Ziad el Rahbani had an open dialogue session at AUB during which a bunch of attendees protested his political stance against the Syrian revolution and called him out on it.

The interesting part, though, is that I found out about the Ziad el Rahbani protest not from someone who is supportive of those students but one who was absolutely outraged because they made AUB students look like fools in front of such a man. That person, typically, felt it appropriate to call those students every word imaginable from the belt down. And he wasn’t alone at it.

The protesting students had their share of supporters as well who felt what they did was absolutely noble. I am personally with what those students did because it was 1) peaceful, 2) a demonstration of their basic right of free speech and 3) it didn’t interfere with the session’s proceedings.

I believe it is their right to protest in the way that they did. Their right stops in a hypothetical scenario where they wreck the hall or attack Mr. Rahbani himself.

I am personally supportive of what the students did and I commend them on it. But isn’t it the right of both who are against and supportive of Ziad el Rahbani to be heard?

George Abdallah:

On the other side of the political spectrum, many Lebanese are protesting what they are calling the French authorities unjustly keeping Lebanese George Abdallah behind bars. To that extent, they set up protests outside of the French embassy occasionally, most of which were peaceful and only served to prove the point being raised.

I do not agree with the protests, nor do I agree with the whole “unjust imprisonment” idea. But isn’t it their right to voice their disdain of the situation as well without having irrelevant me ridiculing them for it?

Boycotting Guns ‘N Roses, BDS, Israel:

Prior to the Guns ‘N Roses concert in Lebanon, a movement calling to boycott the concert was started. Many Lebanese may have not gone to the concert because of it but many other did. After all, the concert was a success. The boycott call was picked up by many Lebanese and often ridiculed.
The only question that popped in my head was: are they bothering me if they are not attending a concert without calling for the concert to be canceled?
The only answer that answered my question satisfyingly was: no they are not.

So I shrugged it off and didn’t write about it. Let them have their fun. I don’t think we should panic every time an artist who has set foot in Israel decides to hold a concert here. But what if someone wants to have a panic attack because of it? Simply, let them have it.

I draw the line when those movements start expanding to some form of neo-culutral terrorism whereby they get the concert in question to be canceled, the artist to cower from coming over and, sometimes, Lebanese acts to suffer in the process.

The bottom line:

Be it a shirt, a political movement, a concert, a dialogue session or a simple conversation, people are allowed to differ in opinion and have their opinion heard even if others find it subpar, unconvincing or unacceptable. What is becoming clearer to me, however, is that the concept of freedom of speech in Lebanon is relative. You get to enjoy its perks as long as you conform to what the vocal bunch expects of you to write or say.

But you know what, the past few days have also shown me that if being ignorant, a bigot and condescending comprises of what I did, then I am all those three and more and I’m proud of it.

Do you regret the whole Bershka shirt post, I was asked over the past two days. My answer was and will always be: definitely not.

Notta-Bene:

For those who were up in a fit how we weren’t discussing more “relevant” issues in Lebanon today, I invite you to read the following articles which I have written over the past two weeks:

It’s not my problem the only time you read is when a post goes viral enough for you to get a link.

USJ, NDU, LAU, AUB Crushes: When Lebanese Students Have Free Time

You know all those memes and jokes about your crush not knowing you exist? Well, some Lebanese students decided to put an end to it all by creating a sort of gossip hub where they gather people’s infatuations and broadcast them anonymously for their entire campus to see.

This “gossip hub” has taken the form of several Facebook pages for most of Lebanon’s major universities: USJ, NDU, LAU and AUB. Despite launching only yesterday, the USJ page has so far near 1000 likes. The other universities haven’t caught on the crushes fever yet.

I find the idea to be smart: it gives those who have a crush on other people the courage that comes with anonymity to declare their feelings. It serves as an interesting addition to campus life that Lebanese universities have yet to see and, most importantly I guess, it just sounds like so much fun: the interaction that I saw on the corresponding Facebook pages because of it is proof enough for that.

The process is simple. You submit info about your crush anonymously to the page: they don’t know who you are and you can even make any info about your crush as ambiguous as possible. In turn, the page admins post the info on the Facebook page. People are guessing almost immediately who the person is and tagging them. The tricky part is for that person to know who got that post to be published on Facebook in the first place.

USJ Crushes Facebook

Some students have a crush on their professors:

AUB Crushes Facebook

Very smooth Elie, very smooth.

I commend the students behind these pages for the very clever idea. Don’t be surprised if you get contacted by several high profile entities regarding your pages quite soon. It’ll only be a matter of time.

Some more examples from the USJ page, which is by far the most interesting:

USJ Crushes Facebook 2 USJ Crushes Facebook 3

As for everyone else, if you feel like you absolutely must tell your crush that you are crushing on them – anonymously of course – here are the necessary links for you:

Hopefully students finding each other will lead to some form of much needed release in this country. I’m tired of recommending tranquilizing pills to the huge amount of people always on edge I’m encountering lately.

Update: Was just informed that, as I suspected, the idea is taken from universities abroad where the Facebook page in question has the format: Spotted: [X] University

Update 2: University of Balamand (UOB) and USEK have their own pages now:

When AUB Students Mourn Their Homeless Ali Abdallah

Ali - AUB

R.I.P. Ali, 7aram Ali, di3anak ya Ali, I gave him a banana once – these are all things that I saw AUB students say now that their seemingly favorite homeless person passed away.

Ali Abdallah was supposedly an AUB Math professor. He’s also a diagnosed schizophrenic. All of the notions about Ali Abdallah’s life are irrelevant right now. What is sure, however, is that most AUB students mourning right now not only ignored Ali when they passed by him on Bliss Street, they were also disgusted by the fact that he was there: a mad man, always unshaven, always unclean, always there.

How death changes things, right? He’s no longer the figure they can’t wait to look down on as they pass Dunkin Donuts or Abu Naji. He’s “their Ali of Bliss Street” – their homeless mascot whose presence they had gotten accustomed to. Until their mascot was gone.

I will not mourn Ali Abdallah because I, like the absolute majority of AUB students in a state of depression now, never spoke to him, never bothered to know him and never considered him “our Ali of Bliss Street.” I feel sorry for the way he died – out there, alone in the cold, leaning against a cold Beiruti wall.

Some are citing natural causes for Ali’s death. Well, those natural causes are freezing to death in the midst of the worst storm of Lebanon’s recent history. How many of those mourning Ali ever thought about giving him a coat or money for a place to stay or ever tried to help him out? I highly doubt they are many.

For those of you who are touched by his death, there’s another homeless woman on Bliss Street that you’ve been ignoring for many years now. Perhaps it’s time to give her a second glance so you don’t feel sad when the homeless woman you ignored day in, day out ends up dead as well due to the freezing cold.

My thoughts go to all the people of my country who don’t have a roof over their heads in these though times, no one to care for them and no government to provide them with shelter.

My Bout With Homophobia at AUB

A couple of days ago, two friends and I decided to participate in a trivia night serving as a fundraiser for the Achrafieh blast victims. 27 teams participated, each made up of three people. A first round brought those teams down to ten and my team qualified. A second round brought those teams down to five and my team qualified again.

When it came to the last round, the questions were – to me at least – rather silly.The categories, in a jeopardy-like system, were: who made this (Macbook Pro, vPro processors, etc…), colors (black market, red lines, etc…), TV shows by cast (Michael C. Hall, Jim Parsons, etc…), 21st century hitmakers (who sings “Call Me Maybe?” Who sings “Teenage Dream?” etc…) and last but not least Glee Songs where they asked about some of songs sung on the show such as R.E.M’s Losing my Religion and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, among others.

My team knew the answers since last time I checked we don’t live under a rock. But it seems knowing the answer to who sings Teenage Dream and the title of the Journey song that has the lyric “Just a small town girl” is “gay” to some of the other participants who had their asses handed to them by us knowing basically everything.

So as we answered one question of useless pop culture after the other, the other team kept spitting derogatory terms at us. They guessed a Bruno Mars song so I looked at them sarcastically and asked: now how do you know that? Turns out that Bruno Mars song was a “straight” song.

Even songs have sexual orientations now. And they wouldn’t stop until one of my teammates threatened them to shut up. As we won the top prize and everyone congratulated us, they were not happy. “Law kenna 3erfin hal2ad lawtane ma kenna shtarakna” (If we had known it would be this gay, we wouldn’t have participated.)

The thing is though they would have known the answer if they actually had been fast enough to get a turn. After all, if someone didn’t know the character “Cosette” is found in “Les Miserables,” then that person is – at least to me – absolutely ignorant. The purpose of the whole night being a fundraiser seemed to have eluded them as well. But I know a few people who were shocked that such a thing would actually come out of AUB students, with the illusion of them being slightly more open minded than your average Lebanese.

As a former AUB student, I know how these students see themselves as the best of the best – being accepted at Lebanon’s version of “ivy league” makes them automatically better than anyone else. Now add the fact that these students are future physicians on top of that and you have an extra twist to the sense of elitism that they have – we are surely better than anyone else. Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone.

It’s not like if they wouldn’t have known the answer to all the questions if they had put on Radio One for a few minutes this past summer. But I have to ask what would these obviously beyond mature future medical doctors do if they ever got a homosexual person to their practice? Would they shut them out just because they don’t agree with their lifestyle?

And this a specimen of Lebanon’s future doctors: homophobic people with an obvious lack of sportsmanship. So as they call my friends and I derogatory terms for beating them, we’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. Assholes will forever be assholes. And this was the first time I’ve had homophobic slurs thrown at my face all my life which has gotten me thinking: what do gay people go through – at least in the medical field – just because they’re gay?

Then I remembered when an acquaintance who happens to be involved in the medical field said to me once: if I ever had a homosexual patient, I’d stop treating them. I asked: what if they die? The acquaintance replied: it would be for the better. That acquaintance was a nurse.

Syrian AUB Students Protesting For Gaza… Silenced and Beaten Up

The students who left their conflict-torn home in Syria to come get the best education in the region at AUB never thought they’d be silenced in a country which sports itself to be the beacon of free speech in the Near East at a university whose charter boasts about the importance of freedom especially that of speech.

Some AUB students gathered on Monday in support for the Palestinians of Gaza. The sit-in was organized by the Secular Club, the Palestinian Club and the Civil Welfare Club, which is the club of the SSNP at AUB. The protesters were joined by Syrian students from the AUB community who wanted to express their sympathy towards Gaza. A lot of them also happen to be members of the Secular Club.

The protestors held up banners. They shouted against the atrocities taking place in that sector of living hell. They shouted for ears that will not listen, hoping in vain that they do. “The people want freedom.” The students were talking about the freedom of the people in Gaza.

But it wasn’t understood that way.

The freedom that those students sought in AUB and which they thought they had was narrowed down by the narrow-minded hypocrisy of some of AUB’s political parties, representing the agenda of their national bigger heads, to what they believe speech should be about.

Some SSNP students, who were part of the protest, took it upon them when they saw the posters that those Syrian students held to make sure they were silenced for drawing similarities between their struggles as Syrians and the struggles of the people in Gaza… because the posters offended them. “Freedom blowing from Houran to Gaza” offended them. A poster from Deir el Zour offended them. Mentioning the Palestinians of Syria’s refugee camps bothered them. So they tore the posters off. And they beat up one guy and threatened others and ganged a professor whom they knew was with the Syrian revolution because they saw them as a provocation.

Some of the students are still receiving threats today. The same people who threatened a friend yesterday followed him around AUB today… up to the cab that was taking him home where they started shouting and tried to assault him. How longer should AUB students be forced to tolerate the hypocritical stupidity of others who believe only their version of the truth goes?

I don’t know the absolute truth about the politics of it all. I don’t pretend to. But neither do they. I do not think about zionist plans for the region when I think about the situation in Syria. But I don’t mind if they do. I do mind though that they have no problem with people getting killed when it works with their political agenda but have no issue whatsoever with others getting killed just because it serves a purpose they believe is righteous.

Those students seem more knowledgeable about the struggles of the Syrians than the Syrians and they sure as hell know more about the daily struggles of Palestinians than the Palestinians themselves.

Syrians at AUB today are not allowed to speak about the atrocities taking place in their own home without a Lebanese silencing them. They are not allowed to express sympathy stemming from their own struggles towards a place that they can identify with more than others.

Some people may not agree with what those Syrians and Palestinians have to say but they have every right as people first and foremost and as AUB students second to say it especially inside their own campus.

The security personnel at AUB, which is usually very active in stopping such quarrels, didn’t bother. The IDs of students, typically taken in similar scenarios, were never demanded here. The AUB administration which approved the rally that took place within its campus has to take disciplinary measures against those who believe they are above reproach. It is beyond vital for those who think they can silence others this way to face consequences for their mindless actions. It is beyond important for the AUB administration to let the students who were silenced that they care about restoring their voices.

Who Won the AUB Elections?

Picture via @WMNader

Back when I was an AUB student, I used to get carried away with the politics of it all. Voting for this party or that will help change things on a bigger scale – I was convinced with that. And I always sought to win, at least during my first two years there. March 14th called themselves Students At Work and they’ve been that way since. March 8th change their name every year. The independents are not really independent and they’ve also become divided. You should also never count out the Jordanians and Palestinians and their sectarian voting.

During my third and last year of undergrad there, I realized that voting for this party over the other – at least in university elections – was ridiculous. My goal as a student was not to take political stances that absolutely no one would care about post the regular 24 hours news cycle. I should be voting for someone who would really try to help me as a student in my university woes. So that last year at AUB, I voted for a mixed list that included a candidate from Amal, a candidate from the LF, a candidate from the PSP and an independent candidate. I had even left an empty spot for lack of “qualified” candidates.

One thing that can be said about my AUB years is that you could always tell who won. As they separated students in front of West Hall with two huge screens and about one hundred security men, you only needed to count the chants, exclude the political ones, to know who won which seat and then follow the winning group to Main Gate and Bliss Street.

But it has stopped being this simple. Every year since, everyone seems to have won AUB. For instance, yesterday’s headlines read:

LF: A tie at AUB with a win in the “fortress” of the FPM.

FPM: A win at AUB. 

And I asked myself the question: who won AUB?

Both sides will extrapolate the AUB elections onto parliamentary elections they both hope they’ll win. The FPM will read into this as them being a majority nationally. The LF will read into this as them being a majority on the Christian field. Both assertions are absolutely unfounded and ridiculous – but they will be made anyway. The students of both sides have already begun celebrating with Facebook statuses and celebratory tweets. We won, we won. All is well. Yay.

With rising tuition fees and a growing disconnect between students and administration, I can say without a doubt that who won AUB yesterday was not the students. Sure, it was a manifestation of free opinion, of democracy, of whatever rhetorical uselessness that gets you to sleep at night. And those students are entitled to their opinion, of course. Let them vote whichever way they want.

The problem is all of these students voting because of their political opinion don’t know exactly exactly how low the attendance in student representative council (SRC) meetings will be once those students they elected start “working” and how little they’ll actually do towards getting them that coveted unlimited printing or whatever promise they gave. And I knew this first hand back in my days: students win and eventually forget they did, until it’s time to mention it on their CVs. Some, from both sides of the political spectrum, rarely skip a meeting. And they try to change things. But they are always faced with an administration that counts on those who absolutely couldn’t care less outside winning and flexing their popularity muscles around.

As AUB students cast their vote against the weapons of Hezbollah or for the weapons of Hezbollah in that university ballot, they were all forgetting one key thing: how will their parents keep paying their rising tuition fees, along with all those university rising costs that are correlated with them? How do they feel about a lack of transparency with their professors and with their administration? How do they feel about AUB remaining the way it is for years and years without change?

Then next year will roll around. And all of these students will still be nagging about the same old things: where’s our unlimited printing? And then they’ll vote the same way again because a vote in AUB is one Hezbollah weapon removed or a firm message for the resistance.

You want to know who won AUB? It’s the status quo that both political camps in the country can erroneously analyze into a vote of trust from the youth that will most definitely be voting for them next year. But hey, it’s not like the “independent” alternative is much better either, with their hypocrisy, their under the table dealings with these political groups they’re challenging and lack of drive to work as well.

I guess we can really say it’s hopeless. The point is: voting for a political party is not a wrong thing to do… if you’re doing so for university reasons, not because some cosmic entity out there is out to get you. It is that courage of voting for someone who differs from you politically, simply because they are better qualified, that everyone seems to lack – and it’s easiest to vote as such in university elections, where your vote really doesn’t matter.