Monthly Archives: October 2008

Global credit crisis hits AUC hard

By Nader Ramadan and Nicholas Gerda

The credit crisis sweeping the globe has caught up with The American University in Cairo. In the past three months, officials said the school has suffered losses of almost $100 million in its securities investments.

At the end of August last year, AUC’s books were in good shape. The university had nearly $1 billion in total assets, according to its fiscal year 2007 report.

Over half of that—$520 million—was invested in stocks and bonds. The university also earned $77.8 million in tuition revenue, and owned over $35 million worth of investments in a variety of Egyptian firms.

But since that time, its securities holdings have suffered a net loss of nearly $120 million, said Alaa Shoreibah, Associate Vice President for Finance.

The market value of AUC’s holdings dropped 18 percent between August and October this year alone, Shoreibah said.

The market meltdown has complicated financial matters for AUC beyond just its market holdings, though. While most universities have frozen their capital projects because of credit shortages, work still continues on the new campus.

Costs associated with campus construction delays, additional operating expenses, and the market turmoil are a trio of concerns for AUC: in large amounts, it is losing money and having to spend money at the same time, when most institutions are reigning in expenses.

The university is beginning a three-year budget and planning process at the end of the month in response to the financial situation, Shoreibah said.

“The goal is to better align our financial resources with our new operating structure, now that we are at the new campus,” he said.

Read the full story in this week’s issue of the Caravan, out now. 

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Faculty will protest colleague’s imprisonment

By Riham El Houshi 

A sit-in will be held Monday 27 October in front of the HUSS building to protest the imprisonment without trial of Ihab Atta, a teacher on fellowship in the Arabic Language Institute of The American University in Cairo.

“There is no charge against him,” said Saeed El-Wakeel, Atta’s colleague at ALI and one of the protest’s organizers. “We want him either to be tried or released.”

Atta disappeared in spring 2007 after attending a party thrown by someone who had attempted to join a jihadi movement in Iraq and had been under National Security surveillance. His colleagues allege he was taken as guilty by association, but since there is no charge any lawyer hired can do nothing more than send petitions to National Security.

“I heard a knock on the door at 2 in the morning,” said Kamilia Farag, recalling the night of her son’s arrest 20 months ago. “It was National Security, and they told me they had taken my son in for questioning but that it would only last an hour.”

Farag kept her son’s arrest a secret until last May, hoping he would be released and be able to take back his fellowship at AUC. “After all my lawyers and my connections failed I decided to send an email to AUC’s President asking him to step in.”

The President’s office did attempt to contact the ministry of Interior but to no avail. According to Raghda El Essawy, Director of ALI, if Monday’s sit-in, to which a host of newspapers have been invited to attend, fails to trigger action, a petition will be sent to Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.

“Ihab is talented, I was extremely reluctant to give away his fellowship,” she said. “He has a promising future, and we will do what we can to get him out.”

Emergency law in place in Egypt since the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat in 1982 means that a person can be arrested and held without charge.

Additional reporting by Asmaa El Gammal and Janan El Maamoun

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How is your commute to school?

Photo by Mohamed Mahmoud

Students and faculty coming to school on Route 6 had a cramped ride from Nasr City. How have your commutes to AUC been like? Let us know at auccaravan@gmail.com

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Dangerous roads to AUC prompt safety awareness campaign

By Sara Khalil

Mai Tarek, a communication media arts senior, knows that the way from her home where she lives in Heliopolis to the university is not that safe. “I see an accident almost everyday and a couple of days ago I saw a car upside down and a guy lying on the ground bleeding,” she said.

But that doesn’t keep her from driving fast and taking the 40 minute trip in less than half an hour.  “Driving near the campus does not worry me. I only get scared when I see these accidents,” she said.

Reckless driving and increasing accidents on the Ring-Road leading to The American University in Cairo’s Kattameya campus have prompted student groups to launch an awareness campaign teaching students how to get to and from school safely.

Working with the Student Union’s Awareness and Development Committee, The Right Road club is giving first-aid sessions to students and distributing road safety manuals around campus.

According to Sandy Saied, a mass communications sophomore and the club’s vice president, the club is also trying to raise awareness about the recently approved road safety law in Egypt.

The law, enacted in August, imposes heavier penalties, including fines and jail sentences, for breaking previously ignored traffic regulatins such as driving without a seatbelt and driving while holding a cell-phone.

The club printed pocket-size illustrated guides outlining the penalty for breaking each traffic regulation.

“I am afraid to drive on this road and even my parents are not ok with it, so I go to the university by the bus service and our driver drives me back home,” said Nadine Kotry, a junior. “I think [The Right Road] will be very effective because students need such advice.”

However, other students don’t think the club can do much to change the way people drive.

Ann Amir, a business senior who is putting off her driving test as long as she can because of road hazards, thinks the club’s success cannot exceed more than 20 percent.

“People who care about road regulations will be following them anyway and people who do not care and do not follow them, will never listen and will just drive carelessly; they will never go and look for advice about how they should drive.”

The Right Road was formed two years ago in response to the deaths of several AUC students in separate road accidents. Six thousand people die on the road in Egypt every year and more than 30,000 are injured.

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AUC students are California dreamin’

By Mona Elkalban

Students from The American University in Cairo going abroad to study are most likely to end up at The University of California.

At an informational session about the International Study Abroad program at Mansour Hall yesterday, students learned about applying to foreign schools.

American schools were at the top of the lists of attendees wanting to go overseas. The most popular choices were The University of California, The University of Massachusetts, and Penn State.

“Study Abroad is becoming a popular demand from the students,” said Rana El-Harty, Assistant to Associate Provost for International Programs. “It is definitely increasing and the students who join this program always end up wanting to extend their stay.”

AUC students who already spent a semester overseas were on hand to encourage applicants.

“It was such an amazing experience,” said Nada Etreby, a returning Study Abroad student from James Madison University in Virginia. “The people were so kind and it seemed as if the university was the center of everything!”

There is plenty of competition to get into the foreign school of your choice.

But attendees learned some institutions accept more foreign students, because they send more of their students overseas too. The University of California has traditionally accepted the most AUC students, because it has sent a number of its students to AUC.

Some questioned if the unfinished AUC campus has provoked more students to plan to study abroad in the upcoming semesters.

So far, twenty-five applicants have applied for the program, with more prospective students still completing their application process.

“It’s not about the AUC campus at all,” El-Harty said. “It’s about the experience, academics, and what they hear from their friends abroad.”

She added, “None of the returning Study Abroad students have complained about their stay abroad. Some were disappointed at first because they did not get accepted into their first choice university, but were happy that they did not withdraw because they ended up having a wonderful experience.”

The word of advice that Harty had to all prospective Study Abroad students was to be aware of the deadlines, and to start the process early.

Students going overseas left the meeting excited.

“It’s going to be a whole new experience for me and I just can’t wait,” said Jasmin Mamdouh, a political science freshman. “I just hope that I don’t come back disappointed.”

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Play features stereotypes, to foster understanding

By Menna Taher

“So what do you think I should pack in my bag to Egypt? I heard all girls are veiled there. I also heard it’s very dusty and unclean. I hope we could find booze there. I heard that they have this whole month when they don’t eat at all. Is there any decent food here? Oh wow, McDonalds!”

The stream of thoughts were part of a dialogue in an improvised play conducted in the first intercultural awareness day held in the oriental hall at The American University in Cairo. The play depicted the stereotypes and misconceptions of Egyptians on Americans and vice versa.

The audience laughed hard. “I know that this play is depicting stereotypes, but actually to me it’s very real,” said Maria Alexandria, a student from Florida. “Some people are actually like that. It’s a sad truth.” 

The workshop was initially the idea of Nelly Corbel, senior coordinator of International Student Affairs.

Upon coming up with the idea, Corbel contacted Simon Rasier and Bjorn Warkalla, directors of Planpolitik, an organization in Germany that conducts academic and non-academic workshops and political simulation games.

“The key of Planpolitik is to offer interactive learning activities,” Raiser said.  

The workshop was divided into discussion and interactive games that helped students learn more about how to deal with cultural differences.

“The workshop is very interesting, very interactive. It’s stimulated multiculturalism very well, and proven the point through the games, ” said Usman Naeem, a journalism junior from Pakistan.

Naeem liked the game ‘Ecotonos’ where cards are distributed with different cultural behaviors, like conceptions of time, personal space and body language. Holders of cards have to act according to the culture given to them.  

Breaks in-between also enabled Egyptians and non-Egyptians to interact outside the frame of the workshop. Discussions ranged from religion, to politics to vacation spots to differences in languages and everyday situations.  

Closing the workshop, many ideas were gathered on how to build a bridge between Egyptian and International students.

“I think the ideas were really helpful,” Corbel said. “The rooming (an idea that International students become roommates with Egyptians) was a very good idea and also the overlap during orientation. Another good idea is also having this event as a trip.”  

“Interaction is like playing cards, either stick to your own rules, or step back and observe and still be able to win,” said Judith Hellebronth, a German journalism student.  

A general consensus was shared that students’ perceptions broadened through the session. “I think it’s very pretentious to believe that you mastered intercultural understanding,” Corbel said.

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Resort no longer an option for students awaiting housing

Students signed up for student housing at The American University in Cairo no longer have the option of staying at the Dusit Thani Lakeview hotel, according to the Office of Residential Life.

In an e-mail sent out to dorm residents on Oct. 16, Associate Dean for Residential Life Fatma Youssef wrote that the hotel “will not work out due to demands of hotel management.”

Instead, students are offered a limited number of apartments, which Youssef warned was “not an attractive offer.”

“It will take several weeks to arrange for internet service; the location of the apartment may be distant from a shuttle bus stop, there is no security available and no laundry service,” wrote Youssef.

However, in return, students will have more space and kitchen facilities.

The e-mail comes after a meeting with the students on Oct. 14 outlining three housing options for students not planning to withdraw from student housing: move to the Dusit Thani Lake View, move to Maadi hotel, located 15 minutes from downtown, or stay in the army hotels, with the possibility of having to leave for the four-day duration of a political conference.

For the duration of the conference, students planning on remaining in the army hotels have the option of going on a university-sponsored trip to Ein Sokhna on the Red Sea or stay with a friend in the Zamalek dorms, free of charge.

Buses will be provided to take students to and from Ein Sokhna to attend classes.

Though the deadline to request moving to another hotel is today, Youssef warned that the university must meet a minimum quota of residents before being able to reach an acceptable deal with hotel managements.

“If there are not enough residents to meet the minimum requirement of a particular hotel, we will not be able to utilize that hotel option,” she wrote.

The deadline to withdraw from student housing has also been extended to Oct. 22.

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