By: Engy Mohamed
Less than 24 hours ago, specifically at one 1 pm during assembly hour at The American University in Cairo, students attended a forum headed by AUC President Francis J. Ricciardone.
The forum was held to discuss the newly controversial subject of the floating of the Egyptian Pound and its implications on university fees, as they are expressed as 50% in Egyptian Pounds and 50% in US Dollars.
As opposed to the previous exchange rate of $1 being the equivalent of 8.88 EGP, students are now required to abide by CIB’s new exchange rate of 15.7 EGP, almost double the initial amount!
A number of Student Union representatives thus spoke to the president in hopes of finding a solution; however, president Ricciardone concluded the forum by arguing that the solution is that there is no solution.
A point of argument during the forum was made upon the mentioning of the Inauguration Ceremony held in honor of the new AUC president which took place only a few weeks earlier. Many argued that the ostentatious event did not reflect a university that claimed to suffer a budget deficit, to which the president responded: “The expenses of the inauguration were donated by gifts coming to this university.”
The reaction of the board to the current crisis faced by students as well as their parents enraged the student body, inspiring them to march in large numbers from the hall where the forum was held all the way to the administration building, where they went on strike. Students threatened to refrain from attending classes or paying the tuition fees until a solution is found.
Some of the cheers shouted by students during their march around campus hoped to gather as many people as possible, encouraging the students’ peers to leave classes and join the protests, and inspired a sense of unity within the student body.
The rallying was not only limited to marches and protests, students were also found to be significantly active on social media, sharing statuses and pictures explaining why unity is important at such a critical time, in addition to explaining what the consequences would be if students were to accept the current situation and merely move on.
Here are some of the posts that continue to circulate on social media as students attending The American University in Cairo discuss the yet unresolved issue:
The movement has undeniably elicited a considerable amount of media attention as a video of the strike made its way on Al Jazeera – Misr’s Facebook page. The issue was also covered on Al Nahar El Youm as they showed a video of the students cheering during the reporting of today’s news. Several online media platforms have also brought attention to the current situation including The Arabic Huffington Post.
Upon speaking to some of the students, we found out that a number of them believe a good solution would entail the termination of the US dollar payment, and converting it to the equivalent of the previous amount paid by students prior to the floatation of the Egyptian Pound, but instead in our own national currency.
Others also suggested resuming interactions using the old exchange rate (8.88) instead of the new one, which is how AAST is dealing with the current problem.
However, and as of this moment, the American University in Cairo continues to look for a compromise as students plan their next step.