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.