Thoughts on the AUC Strike

I was standing in the hallway waiting to go into my Hieroglyphs 1 class. A female Egyptian undergraduate student walked past the group of us in the hall, wearing skinny jeans and a loose top, her gorgeous black hair falling down her back in curls, kept out of her eyes by fashionable sunglasses. We watched her walk past us. An American girl sitting on the ground turned to another international student. “What would you rate the average attractiveness on this campus?” The girl thought for a second. “Maybe a seven.” A few others concurred with the seven rating. I thought they were all nuts. These are the most attractive people I’ve seen in my life. The wealthy, well-dressed, well educated privileged few in a nation that has 40% of the population living below the poverty line. I have never seen so many designer bags or iPads in my life.

Since Sunday, September 11, AUC students have organized an ongoing strike to protest a 9% increase in tuition this semester, among various other insignificant demands. Crowds of students and security staff (also on strike) gathered in the courtyard in front of the Administration Building for hours everyday, skipping class, marching down hallways chanting, yelling and banging on drums, as well as barging into classrooms to implore students to join their march.  On Thursday some students took down the American flag that hangs at the campus entrance, saying that AUC is not upholding principles of human rights represented by the flag. Throughout, the Student Union and University President, Lisa Anderson, have done wonderful jobs of e-mailing the entire student body daily to update everyone on the proceedings.

I am in full support of their right to protest, but I can’t help but see this as a microcosm of the January Revolution. Egyptians are eager for the right to speak on their own behalf, and the students seemed to jump at the first cause that came their way. Among complaints from students that the protesters are disrespecting teachers and those who take their education seriously and cannot concentrate during the loud and unruly marches, I hear some saying: “We are the fortunate and privileged in Egyptian society right now. We can afford to pay for an education, while most of the country cannot.”  I myself have taken out thousands of dollars of student loans, and will continue to do this until I graduate, but this is simply what education costs in today’s world. I think they should be glad, as I am, that they have the ability to attend a school such as AUC because they are securing for themselves a future.

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