Monthly Archives: September 2008

Several students fall ill, doctors think temperature changes to blame

By Sarah Wali

Several students last week got sick at school, doctors at the AUC clinic said, the illness an infection likely caused by sudden temperature changes as they left air conditioned classes and entered the sunny campus.

The clinic noted several cases of gastroenteritis, an illness triggered by an infection or inflammation in the digestive system.

Dr. Mohamed Amin, acting director of the clinic, said he has treated students with diarrhea and vomiting on campus, symptoms of the illness.

According to pediatrician Dr. Ingy Shaaban, the sudden change in weather makes a person vulnerable to infection.

“When you are in a cold area your body creates mucus to protect your respiratory system,” Dr Shaaban said. “If you then immediately walk into a very warm area you are creating an ideal situation where bacteria can easily grow.”

Engineering student Gerges Kostandy was among the students who got sick.

“You go from a room where the air conditioning is so high you are shivering in class to outside where you stand in the desert heat,” Kostandy said. “Of course you are going to get sick.”

Kostandy started experiencing symptoms within the first two days of class. At first it seemed like a normal flu, he said. But his condition worsened, and soon he was bed-ridden.

“I got really scared when I started throwing up blood,” Kostandy said.  “The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me.  All I know is that I started feeling like I was sick at school.”

Dr. Shaaban said the change in temperatures is ideal for bacteria to grow.

“Every time you breathe in, the bacteria in that area travels further inside your body,” she said. “If you are already sick, or are weak in a certain area you may experience more intense symptoms.”

The condition can result in the patient experiencing different ailments, she said, including fever, headaches, sore muscles, vomiting and cold shakes.

In order to avoid such issues, air conditioning should be set at a reasonable temperature, she said.

Campus staff said there is no regulated temperature for classrooms.

“The temperature is set by each thermostat in the room,” said one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to comment. “Right now, some of them aren’t working. When we fix them, we put the temperature at 20 degrees.”

Muslim students have dealt with the difficulties of the move while fasting during Ramadan. Since fasting prohibits all drinking and eating until sunset, students feel weaker and more susceptible to many of these ailments.

“I have these classes where they can’t control the air in the room,” said sophomore Mustafa Saba. “I’m numb when I leave the classroom.  Then I step outside in the desert heat, and there is nowhere to stand that isn’t outside.  I can’t drink water and I’m just weak all day.”

Although Saba has not yet missed any classes, he is battling the flu. He has a stuffy nose, headache, and sometimes flu fever. He has been toughing out his classes so far, but is concerned about his health.

“Until they control the temperature in the classrooms, I won’t get better fully,” Saba said.

 

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Parking fee refunds coming soon

By Ahmed Wafaey Mansour and Mohamed El Sherif

Some students at The American University in Cairo will begin receiving refunds for parking fees, after the administration halved the initial 3,000 L.E. parking fee earlier this month.

“We already started the process of refunding the 50 percent for those who had already paid,” said Ron Smith, the associate vice president for Facilities and Operations. “We received a little bit over a hundred so far, but no one received the refund yet.”

The Student Union, which argued with the university to lower parking costs, said the fee reduction should result in more students buying parking permits.

“I believe students will prefer the parking permits because now the fees are reasonable with no big difference, and it is much safer to park on campus,” said SU President Mohammed Ali.

Only 455 parking permits had been purchased out of an available 2,000 by the mid-September deadline, according to the university.

Some students, though, said the price was still too much.

“I didn’t get a permit when it was for 3,000 L.E., and I still won’t get one now,” said Omar Salah, a Business Administration senior. “It’s still too expensive, especially that the other options aren’t that bad.”

Salah said that he currently parks in the desert, for free.

“Although these prices are now similar to what I used to pay the valet at the old campus, it felt like a necessity because the valet really was my savior,” Salah said. “Now I have other options, free of charge.”

Gamal Sultan, a professor, said he used to pay about 100 L.E. a week when he parked at El Bostan, a commercial garage close to the old campus. After the cut, he calculated that he would now pay 35 L.E. a week.

“I am satisfied with the decision, I think it’s very reasonable,” he said. “Paying 3,000 L.E. per year, to only use the permit three times a week was just unreasonable, and I would have never bought a permit.”

Sultan wondered, though, if he could use a different car with the same permit.

Ali said the fact that only a fraction of parking permits had been sold by the September deadline convinced the university to lower costs. “It is a matter of supply and demand,” he said.

But there still were questions about what the university would do next, as it was stated that the price cut was a one-year plan.

“I promise that the SU will try to keep the situation as it is now,” Ali said. “If the parking fees are increased again we will make sure that there are enough services in the parking lots – like shaded areas for the parking spaces – to make sure that the parking worth its fees.”

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A happy iftaar for the children

By Alya Hosny

The Anti Cancer Team hosted an iftaar for 200 children and their parents on Sept. 26 at the old campus in Tahrir Square.

The group holds annual events for the patients. This was their first charity iftaar this Ramadan.

“When you realize that you can put a smile on a sad face, it is the most beautiful and satisfying feeling in the world,” explained Sara Etman, president of the ACT, and one of 150 group members on hand to help out.

McDonald’s catered the event, and a Ronald McDonald clown and musician performed for the delight of the children, most who are long-term cancer patients.

The children were handed party hats and toys to play with on their way in to the dinner. They received another gift bag assembled by ACT members, filled with watches, toy mobile phones, and Happy Meal toys from McDonald’s.

“I didn’t expect it to turn out like this,” said Omar Abouseif, Vice President of the ACT. “There were a lot of complications with time and organization, but the outcome was great.”

 

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Janitors with a personal touch missed at AUC

By Bassem El Sanadi

Now that they are not around, everyone wonders where all those janitors and office boys in blue shirts who kept The American University in Cairo clean and efficient have disappeared to. 

On the old campus, in every building, there were two or three janitorial men in blue shirts known to the faculty and staff. Their jobs were to keep the place clean and help faculty members with their files and offices.

On the new campus, their absence is deeply felt as AUC staff run around carrying files, looking for blank papers for their printers, and a number of staff and students complain about unclean buildings.

The university signed a contract with Mohandeseen-based facilities management firm, Compass Egypt, which provides the university with janitors and manages them. But faculty still question the number of custodial staff that were recruited.

“I have seen a few janitors but they are all new and not always around, if I want to send something to the registrar or any other building I have to go myself or use e-mail which really slows down the process,” said Nesrine Azmy, a mass communication department secretary.

Nahed Ali El Faransawy, senior HR specialist in the Human Resources office, said the workload and conditions of workers differ from one department to another.

Faculty members also complain that in the old campus, the janitors were familiar to them, and they would send them on errands to get anything, from lunch to medicine.

“Here it is not possible, since janitors are not familiar with everything and their job is mainly cleaning,” said Azmy.

Janitors on the new campus said they do not have one-on-one relationships with the faculty and staff and they focus only on keeping the university clean.

“I arrive at the campus by 7 a.m., clean, put chairs and desks in order and make sure everything is in place before I head off to my house,” said Kareem, a library janitor.

According to the janitors, the workload is divided equally and there are two or three janitors on every floor in the library. 

Mahmoud Awho, a janitor who works in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences building, said for every building there is a manager, a team leader and six janitors on every floor.

“The managers go around checking on the janitors every now and then,” Awho said, while tearing packages and stuffing them in rubbish bags. 

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Advertisers’ hard sell at soft opening finds few buyers

By Nader Ramadan

At the Student Union soft opening, popular band Wust el Balad and musician Mahmoud El Esseily performed on a stage bathed in blinking strobe lights, white smoke and flashes of white, yellow and blue. But the real spotlight was on event’s private sponsors.

A large poster advertising Red Sea resort Port Ghalib hovered behind the musicians. Tickets to the event were dappled with the logos of sponsors, and university grounds were marked with every sponsor’s signature color, from the orange of Egyptian phone operator Mobinil to summer camp organizer AU Pair’s pink.

Nader Ramadan

Musicians jam for the audience at the SU soft opening. Photo: Nader Ramadan

The evening concert was group’s way to welcome students to The American University in Cairo’s new campus, but it was businesses crowding the campus with booths amid the blaring music to market their products and services to students.

Luxury resort Port Ghalib, owned by Kuwaiti company M A Kharafi Group, was the largest financial contributor to the event. Student Union President Mohammed Ali did not provide information on how much his group received.

According to Port Ghalib senior sales executive Nader Radwan, AUC students are the target market the resort wishes to attract. “We are here for awareness and that’s it,” he said.

Manning the Mobinil booth was Joseph Nasry, a marketing officer.

Giving away gift packages including sunscreen to playing card decks, all branded with the Mobinil logo, Nasry attempted to convince AUC students into joining their 282 Club, which allows members to make a number of free calls.

Also present with a booth was Commercial International Bank. The bank was one of the event’s ticket sponsors, and advertised their banking services to AUC students. 

“We are promoting our normal products,” said CIB AUC branch manager Magdy Ibrahim, adding the bank would later offer special promotions to AUC students.

L’Aroma, the popular coffee chain on the Tahrir Square campus, also secured a spot at the event. Though Cilantro is the now only coffee chain at the new campus, Ali explained that L’Aroma is still allowed to sponsor events.

“I invited them for fundraising, so they came as sponsors,” Ali said, to explain the numbers of advertisers, adding they also did catering for the event.

The SU spent close to 70,000 LE in order to organize this event, Ali said.

Despite the SU’s efforts, the event was only moderately attended. The group predicted an attendance of roughly 600 students, Ali said, and the audience count was closer to 700. 

Previous Student Union events on the old campus attracted crowds of over 800 people. Ali said he was not surprised by the low turnout, because it was Ramadan, and the new location.

Sponsors were disappointed by the turnout, though. They said it was less than previous events at the Tahrir Square campus, and complained about booths with few lines of prospective customers.

“The number is not as great as last time,” said Shaymaa El Ghandour, a booth supervisors for Neutrogena, the facial care line.

“It is a very small number,” said Ibrahim, the CIB bank manager. “If the party was held in the old campus, we would have more.”

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Students fed up with Army hotels

By Lujein Ashi

Cockroaches, cramped rooms and boredom are among the concerns shared by students living in hotels as they wait for The American University in Cairo to finish its campus dormitories by the end of October. 

“I don’t like the living situation we’re in, there are weird insects in the room and no place to study inside the room,” said Hammam Al-Khodary, an international student. “Plus, the air conditioning is noisy, the fridge is broken and the rooms are too small.”

Over 400 students are living at three hotels owned by the Egyptian army in Heliopolis and Nasr City, put there by the university after contractors failed to complete the dormitories in time for the new semester.

Alexander Al-Guindi, resident director at the Residential Life Office, said his office learned only a month before the beginning of this fall semester that campus residences would not be complete. 

Al-Guindi said his office was left with hundreds of students and only 30 days to find them accommodation.

“We chose three hotels on the basis of distance (to the new campus), cleanliness and somewhere that provided the basic necessities for students,” he said.

Emails were sent to students on July 18, apologizing for delays in the construction and completion of the new campus residences. Students were given options.

Either they could receive a full refund without forfeiting the U.S. $300 deposit they submitted for housing, if they withdrew by Aug 3, with an added 25 percent reduction on housing fees for the fall semester.

Or, if they wanted to keep their campus housing slots, they would be provided hotel rooms temporarily, that were promised to be ‘AUC standard,’ for two months until the new residence would be complete.

Students who chose the second option said the provided rooms have fallen far short of what they were promised. 

Bana Kamal withdrew from the hotels. “The rooms had cockroaches and were uncomfortable,” Kamal said.

Freshmen have found living in the hotels especially difficult, comparing their experience to living at the old dormitories in the city. 

“I wasn’t expecting this, it’s depressing and uncomfortable,” said Laila Abdel-Khaliq, a freshman. “There are no activities, nothing.”

Students did agree, though, that shuttle bus service supplied by AUC is comfortable and transportation is easy. Students are taken to and from campus, and to Zamalek and City Stars mall in Heliopolis in the evenings.

Al-Guindi showed sympathy for the students, but maintained that they are doing their best.

“We’re paying three times the amount students are paying for these hotels,” Al-Guindi said. “Even if we had booked the Intercontinental, they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us with everything students need.”

Despite statements by AUC President David Arnold that the school had no choice but to move this summer, students in the hotels said the move should have been postponed another semester.

“You made a mistake President Arnold,” El-Khodary said.

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University blames construction contractors, again

By Nader Ramadan

Another high-ranking official with The American University in Cairo criticized the work of its construction contractors today, this time Boyd Hight, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees.

“We recognize that [the campus] is not complete,” Hight said. “We were assured by the contractors that the campus would be complete by June 1.”

Hight made his comments before a general faculty meeting this morning, at the Mansour Group Lecture Hall inside the Mostafa Core Academic Center.

Hight’s remarks echoed those made by President David Arnold last week in a similar forum for faculty and staff.

Hight defended the summer move to the new campus, rather than postponing the move by one semester.

“We had no choice,” he said. “Imagine what moving in the middle of the school year would have involved.”

Hight encouraged professors to endure the difficulties that came with an incomplete campus.

“I hope you are seeing improvement on a daily basis.”

President Arnold and Hight were signatories of an LE 850 million contract with multinational construction contractor Samsung and its Egyptian partner Samcrete.

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