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. 


University Crushes Taken To A New Level: Psst App

Psst App

The LAU, USJ, AUB, USEK, NDU & UOB Crushes pages which occupied 95% of our Facebook timelines over the past few weeks have gone to the next level by finding a companion in a new app called: Psst App. Yes, the “psst” is exactly what is said to grab someone’s attention “psst, psst.”

The premise is very simple: You log in through your Facebook account and use the app to talk anonymously to anyone you want, effectively making the possibilities much more diverse than simply talking to someone you like.

So if you have a crush who happens to be a Facebook friend, you can take it to the extra level now and stop posting anonymously about them on your university’s crush or hottie page.

You can add the app via your Facebook account by clicking here or downloading the Android version here. This is gossiping, Lebanon style.

The Maturity of Lebanon’s Educated Youth

Students from party X at some university in this country were offering Christmas candy. They run across students from party Y who refuse to take their candy.

Therefore, a student from party X has a shouting row with another student from party Y. They start fighting. Their buddies join in. Soon enough, a bunch of students from party Z see the fight and join in with their political allies Y. They can’t leave 3dam l ra2be (their backbone) alone like that.

That’s one version of the story. Other versions exist. All versions don’t matter. You can substitute X, Y and Z to whichever current Lebanese political party that gives you peace of mind.

The result is several bloodied students who, after having the bejeezus beaten out of them, are posing for pictures with their favorite political sign while they sit on a gurney in the back of an ambulance. Their pictures are then shared by other educated students who support their political movement. Exhibit A:

Taratattata to the hospital! Woohoo!

Taratattata to the hospital! Woohoo

Sadly, at the time of writing this, I didn’t have pictures from students from other political parties.

The previous picture held the caption “till martyrdom” by the other student that shared it. It seems martyrdom these days has become about fighting for Christmas candy rights.

The following day, students from those same parties but at an entirely different campus found themselves in an even worse fight. The details are irrelevant. People will believe what they want to believe. However, this is what’s becoming more and more certain:

This educated youth that our fathers and forefathers (and mothers) are counting on to help better the crappy state of our country is absolutely hopeless. Be it from those who are starting the fights over absolutely meaningless things when they’re supposed to be attending classes to those who are proud and sharing these people’s pictures on Facebook with all kinds of praise.

If the educated youth of Lebanon which should give the country hope are as brain-dead as the current ruling class and if these educated youth are the ones behaving like this, then what have they left to those who are less educated? You know, those people we love to hate because they’re poor and illiterate and easily driven by politicians?

What’s worse is that these people who made a fool out of themselves and out of the political parties they represent will not be reprimanded. On the contrary, their corresponding political leader will congratulate them for standing up to injustice. For standing up to what’s right. For believing in their party’s principles. For defending their brethren’s honor. For not letting those despicable others leave without broken noses. For being mature enough to know right from wrong. For taking a stance… all for some Christmas candy-coated political crap, in the time of forgiveness and all that jazz.

‘Tis the season not to turn your back and leave confrontations but to offer people a bloody eye while you ditch your course to spread Christmas glee. Merry Christmas!


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.

Muslim Prayers At USJ

Everyone should be able to express their conviction in the right place at the right time. This is a conviction of mine. The right place and the right time may vary depending on where you stand regarding an issue but sometimes things are very clear cut and a stance needs to be taken.

A few months ago, the Antonine university had a tough situation with Muslims students who were adamant about praying at their university, which happened to be a Maronite Monastery, so they took the convent’s courtyard to do so. This sparked a debate in the country: should these students be allowed to pray or not at universities with obvious religious affiliations?

The point of view that I expressed back then and which I still stand by is the following: If a Muslim student (or a Christian student for that matter) believes it’s of utmost importance for him/her to pray, then that should go into their university selection criteria. If that student deems prayer not important enough and believes that getting the best education that can be provided, regardless of the university’s religious affiliation, is the way you to go, then that student doesn’t have the right to complain later on.

Université St. Joseph (USJ) had a similar incidence yesterday where more than twenty Muslim students decided to gather around and take a room without permission in order to pray. The incident was reported to the dean who rounded up the students only to have the situation swell by attracting more students to the place where the prayers were taking place. Some took the job of acting as guard to let the prayers continue.

The situation escalated to the maximum point without a confrontation happening and the incident has sparked some Christians at USJ to express outrage at what was happening. They believe that including a prayer room in the faculty of medicine was good enough – forcing every single faculty to adopt such policies is a step too far. The faculty in question was ESIB. For the Muslims who want to pray at USJ, it is their “right” to pray five times and they believe the university should provide them with a prayer room to do so.

It seems that such endless debates are our bread as Lebanese. But here’s what it breaks down into quite simply.

  1. USJ is a university that is obviously Christian. It is run by the Jesuites. It doesn’t hide its Christian affiliation and as such, those applying to study in it are well aware of that.
  2. Given that the nature of USJ is a general fact, weren’t those Muslim fully aware that attending USJ will bring them the best education possible and not spiritual fulfillment?
  3. When a prayer turns into proving a “principle” and rubbing it into other people’s faces, the question asks itself: what’s the point of praying in the first place?
  4. When a prayer becomes a point of conflict, the question also asks itself: are those students really seeking religious salvation or are they simply seeking trouble? I believe it’s obviously the latter.
  5. What forces universities with obvious religious affiliations to provide praying facilities for all its students? Is it something that they’re obliged to do? Absolutely not. If a university had been secular, the problem wouldn’t present itself. The American University of Beirut converted its chapel into an assembly hall and has denied requests for prayers rooms. AUB is secular. USJ is not.
  6. Universities abroad, which provide prayer rooms for students, are not religious in nature. And if the prayer rooms are provided, they are not for one religion and not the other – they are for all religions. Religious ones, on the other hand, are not forced to do so: Case in point: the Catholic Medicine faculty in Lille, France, does not provide prayer rooms for its Muslim students.
  7. Would a Lebanese Muslim university open a chapel for Christians to pray in it? The answer is obviously not. The argument that Christians don’t need to pray doesn’t hold. What if they want to?

Lebanese students in general, both Christian and Muslim, need to know that universities are not churches. They are not mosques. They are not synagogues. Universities are places where they pay in order to learn and build a future for themselves and their families. The fact that all of my Muslim friends at medical school, some of whom are extremely religious (they are Salafists and awesome), have no problem going through our long days without praying is testament enough that those “Muslims” wanting to “pray” at USJ are only seeking to create trouble and tension at a university that’s known of accepting people from all parts of Lebanese society, regardless of religion. But there are lines you cannot cross.