Thursday, November 28, 2013

AUC Financial Forum: News Report

By: Nehal El-Sayed

         A financial forum was held on Sunday at The American University in Cairo (AUC) to discuss the budget deficit problem that faces the university at the 2013/2014 fiscal year. 

The following report is a summary of the forum in which the main points were addressed. It talks about the purpose of the forum, the reasons behind the problem and the suggested options to overcome this deficit. The forum was held to raise awareness about the issue among AUC community. AUC President Lisa Anderson and Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Brian MacDougall presented and discussed the different aspects of the problem and listened to the audience's suggestions. 

         This is the reaction piece in which the audience reflects on the forum and give further comments and raise concerns about the issue. It has post interviews conducted after the forum by a colleague student. The interviewees expressed their thoughts about the issue. One of the main concerns that was raised was holding the forum in English while some members of the audience do not operate in English at the university. Another concern was that how the plans would affect the members of the AUC community. 

Credit: Interviews conducted by Farah Moustafa 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

AUC Forum Aims to Save University from $9.7 million Deficit

By Emmy Sarkes, Shahenda Karim, Karima Aly and Malak Asaad.

CAIRO, Egypt- In a forum discussing the $9.7 million forecast budget deficit for the remainder of the 2013-2014 fiscal year (FY), Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Brian MacDougall presented different strategies to over come the deficit.
The lecture was hosted at The American University in Cairo (AUC) in the Mohamed Shafik Gabr Lecture Hall last Sunday. President Lisa Anderson, MacDougall, as well as students, staff and faculty members attended the forum.
As MacDougall reviewed different strategies in order to act on the current forecast budget deficit, he mentioned which would have a major impact on faculty and staff. The proposed suggestions include salary reductions, hiring, benefits and overtime policies.
Regarding faculty salaries and benefits, MacDougall says, “We know that the part time faculty budget linked to income generating centers will be underspent,” adding that most of the budget is used for salaries and benefits and that under spending on faculty by $1.2 million and having a $200,000 average relates to the positive in terms of staff salaries and benefits.
MacDougall also mentioned that there might be a hiring freeze for both staff and faculty. “Putting a large limit on which positions will be filled will save the university millions of dollars,” he says. 
Another strategy suggested by MacDougall is reducing staff through non-renewal contracts. This does not mean letting go of staff members in the near future, but when looking at all the options, MacDougall says: “This is clearly something we should consider.”
Salary increases could also be postponed in order to decrease expenses. The university may not be able to make another commitment that it cannot support or have the ability to fund.
MacDougall added that the university spends over $2 million a year on overtime. He suggested that this amount of money could be compromised if overtime is reduced to only when absolutely necessary. This means spreading all the unessential workload throughout separate days rather than compressing all the work in just one day.
Different approaches will be used to overcome this budget deficit. Since the university had not anticipated this drawback and changes in policies are not definite yet, discussions will be held and the board of trustees will be open to listen to different opinions on how to get through this obstacle. 
         Another forum was held in Arabic today, Tuesday November 26, for those who had difficulties understanding the previous one in English. 

Reaction to University's Forum Discussion on Ways to Tackle $9.7 Million Deficit

By: Lara Al Huneidi, Farah Moustafa and MennatAllah Mousa

CAIRO, Egypt- The American University of Cairo  is predicting a $9.7 million budget deficit, which Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Brian MacDougall says is due to the unforeseen change in tuition income from international students.

MacDougall explained that the university did not imagine how destructive the situations would be in the summer and this led to a huge decline in their total revenue. The political unrest and the consequent travel ban were behind the huge drop in international student enrollment.

“The students that didn’t come this fall are almost all international students,” says President Lisa Anderson. Although the forecasted year-end budget was of a surplus of $0.03 million, now the university shows a net deficit of $9.7 million due to the decline in international students, as well as many other factors.

Anderson clarified that a task force has been working on options for the university to mitigate revenue loss. Among the many options, a few of them were imposing a hiring freeze for vacant positions, postponing salaries, reducing the financial aid budget, stopping the annual purchasing of agendas and several other options. While some of the options will be temporary, others will be long-term options.

“The purpose of this forum is to solicit your suggestions, your reactions and your thoughts about what we ought to do as a community to address this deficit,” says Anderson.

Several individuals at the forum were concerned about some of the suggestions put forward. This blog is based on some of the reactions as well as opinions of students and faculty members to the university’s forum discussion on the $9.7 million budget deficit.

How Will AUC Survive the $9.7 Million Budget Deficit?

By: Sarah Yousri, Nermeen Abdel Fattah, Menna Al Malky and Radwa Magdy.

CAIRO, Egypt – A forum discussing the $9.7 million budget deficit took place at The American University in Cairo (AUC) on Sunday November 24th and was held by the University’s President Lisa Anderson and Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Brian MacDougall.

The purpose of the forum was to generate suggestions and proposals from the AUC community in an effort to overcome the steep financial gap the university is facing. MacDougall stated that AUC is considering different strategies in order to overcome the gap.

According to MacDougall, the main reason for the deficit is a significant drop in enrollment due to a fall in the number of international students by more than 300, adding that revenue is also affected by the 50 percent cut in donations.

"On a positive note, the signing of the Greek Campus lease is starting to bring revenue to the university," he says.

MacDougall discussed two direct strategies the administration is considering implementing, namely, raising the current cost of residence fees for students as well as the implementation of a new parking payment system. As for the faculty and staff, changes in hiring, salaries, benefits and overtime policies were among the proposals made.  

Anderson says admitting more students is out of the question since the university will not be able to provide them with the quality of education they are paying for in response to an attendee who raised  concern over how AUC will be able to maintain quality after reducing their budget. 

Additionally, the decline in the number of international students is not due to a decrease in the quality of education offered at AUC, it is due to the travel ban imposed by the US government, Anderson said.

In a personal interview, MacDougall says: “We want to solve it in a way that’s fair and reasonable to everybody.”

MacDougall has not come to any solution and will consult the AUC community before implementing any strategy.

An additional university-wide forum was also held in Arabic.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Struggles of the Human Rights Community in Egypt

By: MennatAllah Mousa, Kanzy Mahmoud and Malak Naguib

  CAIRO, Egypt – Human Rights Watch (HRW) Egypt Director Heba Morayef held a lecture at The American University in Cairo on Wednesday discussing the shift the human rights community in Egypt experienced in the last three years.

The Middle East Studies Center hosted the event entitled: “From Hero to Public Enemy? Human Rights Workers in Egypt,” where Morayef stressed on the backlash the human rights community received from the media in the last three months for documenting human rights violations under the current regime.

The Egyptian society does not understand that the change human rights organizations are seeking is that “security forces are not above the law,” Morayef said.

According to Morayef, the turning point for the human rights community was January 25th Revolution, after which “talking about human rights became part of central political discussion” and the military government started inviting human rights organizations for consultation on legislative reforms.

 However, there were many incidents such as June 2011 when “the military attacked 6th April, calling them foreign agents,” and others where the military committed human rights violations, said Morayef.

 During former President Mohamed Morsi’s era parliament also invited human rights organizations to discuss law reforms. While the latter pushed for a law on transitional justice to be passed, parliament was dominated by one single group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and, thus, refused to pass it, said Morayef. She added that many human rights violations were committed under Morsi and reporting on them made human rights organizations very popular in the society and the private media.

 It was only after the dispersal of Rabaa Al-Adaweya Square sit-in that the media accused human rights organizations of “being supporters of the Brotherhood or working for the US” as they condemned the dispersal that caused a huge amount of killings. Morayef said that there was no provision of safe exits for the wounded.

In an interview, when asked about the future of human rights organizations in Egypt, Morayef said: “Until we see a shift in media, that influence (shifting government policy, pressuring government to make certain demands) will be limited.”

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ekne3ny Shokran – Minimum Wage Policy Debate

By: Nermeen Abdel Fattah, Radwa Youssef and Shahenda Kareem

CAIRO, Egypt – An economic debate forum on whether or not to apply minimum wage in Egypt took place on Nov. 6th at The American University in Cairo (AUC), held by the ‘Ekne3ny Shokran’ initiative.

The panel included Manal Metwally, professor of economics at Cairo University, Tamer Wageeh, director of the Social Justice Unit at Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Mohamed El-Sewedy, chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Industries and Alia El Mahdi, a professor of economics at Cairo University.

Metwally and Wageeh were arguing for the government to implement minimum wage soon within the workforce in the governmental sector and in private businesses. However, El Mahdi and El-Sewedy debated that it should only be applied under certain conditions and not before a few years.

In announcing her proposal to increase the minimum wage, Metwally explained that due to inflation in prices minimum income should be implemented to secure a decent life for the citizens and this minimum income should be divided into: minimum wage and social securities.

El Mahdi argued that by implementing the concept of minimum wage in Egypt nowadays would only backfire on the public, as it will be the ultimate cause for the rise in market prices. Before such an ideology is implemented, it is vital for the economy to be stable.

Wageeb stated that 30% of the work force is self-employed and the rest work for others. Half of the 70% earn 30 LE per day supporting a family of four or five living below the line of poverty. However, in developed countries they provide the work force with decent jobs that allows the employee to live a decent life.

An attendee proposed that the government should implement minimum wage per hour, an amount that is suitable to sustain and secure the workers life and allow him to live comfortably.

“Before the debate I was against the motion, because I think that Egyptian productivity doesn’t deserve to raise its wage level, and after the motion I am still against it”, said Jana Abd El Menam, an attendee from AUC.

El-Sewedy said, in a personal interview, ‘the most important thing the market takes the lead when it comes to setting the wages not the government’.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happiness: An Abstract Concept in Post-Revolutionary Egypt.

By: Lara Al Huneidi, Farah Moustafa and Salma El Saeed. 

“Inti Mabsouta? Revolutionary Experiments in the Pedagogy of Visual Ethnography” Lecture at AUC

CAIRO, Egypt- In a lecture held at The American University in Cairo (AUC), Assistant Professor Dr. Mark Westmoreland discussed an experiment a group of his students conducted by asking Egyptians “Are you happy?”

The lecture, entitled “Inti Mabsouta? Revolutionary Experiments in the Pedagogy of Visual Ethnography,” took place on Tuesday, October 30th at the Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Egyptology (SAPE) seminar room at AUC.

While teaching a Visual Anthropology seminar during the Fall 2012 semester at AUC, Westmoreland started this experiment in response to a widespread interest he realized his students had in recording post-revolutionary times. He instructed his students to film a variety of Egyptians responding to the question “Are you happy?” 

“Most [students] were interested in some aspect of the revolution,” Westmoreland said. “This idea of ‘thinking with a camera in revolutionary times’ was sort of the…subtitle of this course,” he added.

Westmoreland said that, due to the precarious period of political transition Egypt is currently in, many Egyptians were suspicious of the students’ intentions and agendas. 

“Having a camera instantly gave us a political position,” he said.

Westmoreland was inspired to start the experiment by two French films, “Chronique D'un Été” (1961) and “Le Joli Mai” (1963), both of which documented everyday life in Paris during a critical political time. Similarly, the projects Westmoreland’s students completed took place during November of last year, close to the anniversary of the Mohamed Mahmoud clashes.

Although the footage Westmoreland collected from his students’ projects recorded a unique moment in the political transition in Egypt, he said that the experiment, in its current form, is not complete.

“It would be really valuable to have an extended project, even for decades, perhaps…it would create an incredible archive," Westmoreland said.

However, while Westmoreland recognizes the value of creating a linear video by documenting the change of atmosphere in Egypt during the 10 years or so following the January 25th Revolution, he plans on completing the experiment by the beginning of next year.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Translation for Bigots: The Art of Translating Arabic Literature into English

By: Nehal El-Sayed and Eman Sarkes

(Photos by: Eman Sarkes)

CAIRO, Egypt – Adam Talib, assistant professor of Arabic Literature at The American University in Cairo (AUC) gave a lecture titled “Translation for Bigots” on Sunday.

As part of an interdisciplinary series organized by the AUC Center for Translation Studies, Talib discussed his anecdotal experience with translating modern Arabic literature for English readers.

“When you’re translating into English, you’re translating for a world,” said Talib as he emphasized on the English language being global. Talib stated that when he translates, he has a fair amount of discretion, in terms of what to emphasize or de-emphasize.

Talib talked about his experience with translating modern Arabic literature and trying to make his translations readable. “I often do things to the original text to make them approachable,” he said.

He related bigotry to the differences in cultures and discussed how it affects the literary translation. He showed examples of Google automatic search engines such as, “Do Arab women marry black men?” Talib believes that this is not evidence for bigotry, yet “an evidence for the cultural gap between the specialist translator who knows his environment well and his audience”.

A discussion question was raised on what translators should do in the use of language to correctly represent the situation. He stated his experience saying, “A lot of times, you translate what’s on the page, and the reviewers find it peculiar”.

Talib stated that translators only care about the translation not the political questions surrounding it. He gave an example of a translation by a French translator who ignored translating a scene about Jews for a specific legal reason that they have a law about Holocaust denial.

In response to the question about the role of translator, Yosra Ali, political science and history sophomore, said, “I believe that translators should not change anything of the authentic text, but at the same time they may provide comments as footnotes to clarify the meaning”.

In a personal interview with Professor Talib, he said, “the better a reader the translator is, the better translation he’s going to produce.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

Egypt: A Country Lost Between the Generals and Islamists

By: Sarah Yousri, Menna Al Malky and Karima Aly

CAIRO, Egypt -- Sharif Abdel Koddous discussed Egypt's continuing struggle since the 25th of January revolution at The American University in Cairo (AUC) on Wednesday.

The lecture was hosted by the Middle East Studies Center (MESC) and the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication (JRMC).

Koddous started the lecture by stating that it has only been 1000 days since the first revolution. He then continued that the problems that have initially sparked the first revolution have not yet been solved such as the fair distribution of wealth and freedom among citizens.

“The military is firmly in control," said Kouddous. The military is using the constitution to establish it's political and economic power as well as seeking to ensure it's supremacy in the country.

The current political crisis is a result of the power struggle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood according to Koddous. Both parties played a "zero-sum game," which demands choosing between the two powers.

Koddous went deeper into the struggle between the two powers by adding that both only seek their own political and economic concerns over that of the public's. He also added that both powers are defined by hierarchy, secrecy and superiority.

Nine-thousand strikes took place throughout ex-president Mohamed Morsy's year in power after he used harsh tactics against the opposition encouraging a brutal security sector in addition to restricting citizen's rights to protesting in the draft law. 

Morsy's opponents mainly consisted of Human Rights advocates, revolutionary activists, business elites and the Coptic Church.

Koddous then talked about Tamarod, a genuine movement appearing in early May 2013, and how the military managed to successfully co-opt with the movement to regain power. 

The military managed to gain publicity through liberal figures. But managed to demonize Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, also a liberal figure, for disagreeing with it's violence against the Islamists.

Koddous' audience reacted positively towards his lecture. Mai Mekawy, a finance major student at AUC, believed that Koddous summed-up the situation in a balanced way.

In an interview, when asked whether or not he thinks that Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will be running for presidency, Koddous said that Sisi will want "to be the real power of the country but not to be the face of the government." 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Visegrad Photo Press Exhibition

by: Jehad Rajab and Zeina Makarem

      GIZA, Egypt - The Visegrad Group countries celebrated the opening of their photo press exhibition in Gezira Art Center in Zamalek, Wednesday.

      The Visegrad photo press gallery consisted of portraits from Egypt, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic .  The opening celebration started by a speech given by Amir Al-Leithy, the director of Gezira Galleries. Al-Leithy presented the ambassadors that attended the opening and the cultural ministers in addition to the Former Prime Minister of Poland.

      Al-Leithy said “Al-Gezeriah Art Center hosts many different galleries and events for Egyptian and foreigner artists to increase the cooperation between us." He said that the art is the language that the whole world use to communicate. 
     This art gallery, without a doubt, has a special place in today’s society. This art gallery offered an open eye appealing view where visitors can observe and understand art.  Nevertheless, why are art galleries important to anyone?

     The Visegrad Photo Exhibition displayed the history of several particular cultures in a creative manner.  All portraits provided a snapshot of what life was like at a particular period of time through the artist’s artwork.  Their art provided information about the people living in a particular time period, certain war, emotions and provided musical backgrounds with their work.  

     The art explained the social and political climate at the time the artwork was made.  Most importantly the art conveyed the perspective of all artists during a certain moment in time. In some pieces, the art was realistic; furthermore, in other pieces, some of the artwork symbolized nature in specific.

     The purpose of this art gallery is to promote art, culture and artists.  There was an emergence of established artists, this art gallery recognized unique art and promoted this talent to the public at large. Believe me, it was a huge success. 

     Art gallery attendees were introduced to different perspectives and ways of thinking through the viewing of their artwork.  In addition, the viewers or audience were fascinated but some criticized that certain sections were identified properly like the other portraits, this art was inspired to endorse a particular cause, change people’s way of thinking, and to create their own works of art.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Art of Compassion and Humanity : Mohammed El Masry's ' We are the End of the World' Exhibition at Artellewa Galley

By Yasmin Ouf and Raghda Yazid 

An Art of Compassion and Humanity 

GIZA, Egypt -  The opening of Mohamed El Masry’s We Are the End of The World exhibition in Artellewa Gallery was a unique addition to Cairo’s art scene.
            Cairo’s art scene has been centered in the Downtown and Zamalek area therefore, when we heard that this exhibition is located in Ard El-Lewa, a poor area in Giza, we had to go and see how different it would be from the luxurious galleries in Zamalek. From the minute we reached Ard El-Lewa, there was a complete cultural shift; we had to park our car and take a “tok-tok” to reach the gallery, since the streets are too narrow for cars to go in.        
          Mohamed El-Masry  is a young, talented photographer and artist. He is a humanitarian and his art portrays how humans are killing themselves, whether by war or by neglecting the environment. “We Are The End Of The World” has been displayed in several countries including India and the Unites States.          
          The exhibition featured pictures from wars and conflict areas over the period of 100 years. It consisted of a series of photographs of people torn apart by wars. However, their faces are all covered by red roses, which made it hard to determine the sex and race of the people in the pictures. “We are killing ourselves and we are killing our planet,” explained Mohamed El-Masry, “It doesn’t matter what your sex or race is, all what matters is that you are a human being who is in pain and this is the message I’m trying to send through my art.”           
         The ‘Artellewa’ Gallery itself is a small, open art space located directly on the streets and it allows anyone passing by to go in and see the exhibition for free. “The owner of the gallery is an artist himself,” said Mr. Khaled Aly, the curator, “he used to live in Ard El-Lewa and he opened his gallery here hoping to expand the art scene and introduce it in the areas which no one would think to visit to see an art exhibition.”            
         Slowly, the people kept piling up inside the gallery to watch the exhibition; there were foreigners who received invitations, children playing in the streets came in to see what was happening and people from the neighborhood came to watch the exhibition. “Artellewa is different than a lot of galleries in Cairo.” said Moritz Mihatsch, “here, people from the neighborhood are allowed to come in and watch, ask questions and learn about art while in other galleries such as Darb, I see security guards trying to keep street kids out which goes against the idea of opening a gallery in such an environment.”                      
            The combination of art, history and culture in Artellewa is one of a kind and it is an inspiration for true artists. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

From film to an underground music enthusiast

By Nada Hedia and Mahmoud Fathi

Cairo, Egypt --  Musician, Singer and Songwriter Ayman Serdar performed yesterday at El Sawy Culturewheel, to introduce fans to a collection of his songs.

Serdar kicked off the night with three of his signature songs, all played back to back, followed by a selection of unoriginal yet well known tunes.  Some of the audience quickly reacted in excitement and gradually started to sing along.  

After dropping a few of his anticipated tracks, Serdar, backed by a band of four musician friends, had his fans up on their feet dancing.

The show however was received with mixed reviews.  In a group of approximately 100 attendees, some complained that it did not live up to their expectations.

Khaled Morshedy, one of the audiences thought the concert ''was below average and it wasn't different and did not reflect what Egyptian music is.''  Morshedy continued,  " the lyrics were a bit traditional," in comparison to Serdar's previous gigs.

Despite the controversy surrounding his singing, Serdar says preparing for concerts is a time consuming process.  He says sometimes it takes up to two years to come up with the lyrics, and a month to prepare for shows. 

Serdar now performs an average one time a month at El Sawy, which has been widely credited for giving birth to many of the art talents that preform or exhibit through it. People at the venue believed the education Serdar got attending Film School in Vancouver coupled with persistence can provide Serdar with what it takes to  make a successful  career out of  concerts.

In an interview, the vocalist himself admitted "Living in Vancouver had such a huge impact on me as a person and my artistic personality.  It taught me how difference could be empowering.  It taught me about art as I learned music in Vancouver through film.  Being surrounded by talented people, musicians, artists from all over the world was such an enriching experiment."

When asked about his upcoming concerts, Serdar finally recommended his facebook page as a place to get updated with what's going on.

Monday, June 17, 2013

ElFIT Challenge Promotes Healthy Living in Egypt

By Nadim Mahfouz and Diana Saleh

Cairo, Egypt- ElFIT Fitness Festival was held in Uptown Cairo, Moqattam district on June 14 and 15.
The second qualifier round of ELFIT challenge is the first of its kind in Egypt. The goal of the event is to promote healthy living. Sportsmen from all over Cairo gathered to participate in the two-day event. They were tested in different categories: agility, strength, balance, speed, power, and endurance.
The participants were divided into four groups. The individual men/women, teams, and masters (over 40). Friday’s qualifier round began with 120 men, 20 women, 18 teams, and 4 masters. Saturday’s event was divided into 3 knockout rounds and a final. The winners were awarded 5,000 L.E for first place, 3,000 L.E. for second place, and 1,000 L.E. for third place.
           In addition to the second qualifier competition, there were exhibitions and performances representing different forms of exercise, crossfit, Le Mills, TRX, running, biking, Zumba, Jazzercise, and Parkour. Also in attendance, were representatives from various high profile sports gyms such as, Gold’s Gym, Fibers, Leo, and Samia Alouba. The event was powered by many sponsors including, Rebook, Redbull, and Uptown Cairo. Spectators were invited to try, free fitness classes, participate in the gym tents, and entertain their children in the kid’s zone. Spectator, Mohamed Awadly, 23, says, “ I am glad such a big event took place here in Egypt.”
           The event is a tri-series challenge that began February 23, 2013. Event organizer, Ahmed Azzet, stated, “The first event was held for one day, we learned it was better to create a two-day event so more people would have the chance to participate.” The organizers of the event wanted to create a festival-like day for participants, family, and friends to enjoy and learn about the benefits of healthy living by combining sports with entertainment. The most recent challenge was the second qualifier round, held June 14 and 15.
           Season one finals will take place sometime in September or October 2013, the location has yet to be announced. Hend El Gamal, 37, says, “Even though I am not participating I am excited to see the challengers in the next round.”