September 25, 2012
Dear AUC Community,
This message is intended to update the AUC community on the latest developments in the suspension of University operations. The Cabinet has had several meetings with student representatives in the last several days to try to resolve the situation. In many respects, these meetings have been very productive. Among the issues discussed with the students at a meeting organized by the board of the Parents Association were creating a more transparent process for allocating financial aid; improving the administration and use of student evaluations, including introducing mid-semester evaluations and regular dissemination of the results of evaluations; developing more effective academic orientation programs for new and adjunct faculty; strengthening departmental student associations and ensuring regular consultation with the associations by department chairs; further refining and institutionalizing the newly adopted registration reforms; and proposing several models of tuition caps for wider discussion by November 15.
While the details of these issues remain to be developed, there are only two that remain matters of fundamental contention. As the administration has explained, the demand that this year's 7 percent tuition increase be rescinded is not possible; those funds are a part of this year’s current operating budget, on which staff salaries and operational expenses are based. Any student facing financial hardship may apply for financial aid. The University has guaranteed that no student will be prevented from completing his or her education due to financial difficulty. The administration has also agreed to introduce an interest-free payment installment plan that would allow parents to pay the tuition in three installments without interest.
The students also proposed that no disciplinary action be taken against students involved in these protests; obviously impunity is inconsistent with the values of the University and the principles of personal responsibility for one’s actions. The administration is committed to fair and transparent disciplinary procedures, but cannot permit a lack of accountability for actions. The disciplinary process is ongoing for students who have violated University policy and the law. While the Student Disciplinary Committee has been working diligently, however, it is not equipped to effectively and efficiently handle the volume and severity of cases being presented, nor the claims being made against members of staff by students. As a result, and in light of these extraordinary circumstances, an alternative disciplinary process is being developed that will provide fair, transparent and prompt disciplinary action.
In addition to these meetings, groups of alumni and graduate students have been meeting and today, the previously scheduled general faculty meeting was held and many faculty members expressed both their concern for and commitment to the University. Additional meetings will be organized tomorrow to give staff the opportunity to present their thoughts and ideas.
While the New Cairo campus is closed, basic services are still being provided to dorm residents. The Seoudi supermarket and several food outlets are currently continuing to operate and the clinic is open 24 hours.
Meanwhile, out of respect for the many students, faculty, staff and alumni who wish us to continue the pursuit of education, which is at the core of the University’s mission, and to provide services to our various constituencies, we are working to try to find solutions to a number of problems that have arisen as a result of the campus closure.
1- Because of the large number of faculty and students who travel for the holiday season, the semester must end in mid-December, and as a result, the number of Tuesdays and Saturdays available for makeup classes are limited. By the standards of our accreditation, the University must be able to hold the equivalent of 15 weeks of instruction to avoid compromising the semester. To this end, Provost Medhat Haroun will be working with the faculty for the remainder of this week to explore the option of providing blended courses that utilize a mix of online learning and classroom sessions. Since planning for this will take several days, no classes will resume before Sunday, September 30 at the earliest.
2- Many staff and faculty members have expressed concern about the timely processing of salary payments this month. Vice President for Finance Fouad Sayess is working with his team on a solution to allow for payroll to run remotely, ensuring that salary payments can be made by the end of this week. Due to the closure of campus, however, payroll staff members are not able to perform the normal verification actions and it is possible that not all manual updates to the payment system have been made; including some overtime pay. Errors in payroll should be reported to Payroll Director Fahima El Sebai at email@example.com who will make corrections in the October payroll.
3- Requests for certificates and transcripts from the registrar cannot be processed right now. The registrar’s office is working on trying to find a solution to issue and stamp these documents remotely, as there have been several pending alumni requests for certificates needed for military service records. The registrar will communicate once a solution has been found.
4- The clinic is operating from 9 am to 4 pm in both the Zamalek dorm and the Tahrir Square campus for faculty, staff and students. Anyone with a prescription from the AUC clinic can get their medication dispensed from Seif Pharmacy in Tahrir clinic or from their nearest Seif branch.
5- There are numerous submission deadlines for grant proposals through the Office of Sponsored Programs. The office is working diligently to find ways to complete the proposals and submit them remotely. Faculty members who have current pending proposals should contact the office to meet submission deadlines to the extent possible.
6- Numerous faculty members have expressed dismay at the allegations regarding the quality of academic programs that are currently circulating in the media. Faculty members interested in playing an active role in either social or traditional media should contact the Office of Communications directly.
7- Many faculty members and administrative offices have complained about the inability to meet outside commitments as a result of not being able to access the New Cairo campus. Nonetheless, while we appreciate the inconvenience, we ask that faculty and staff not attempt to go to the campus now.
The American University in Cairo