By Nader Ramadan and Nourhan Elsebahy
The head of The American University in Cairo apologized to attendees at a raucous and at times angry student forum today meant to address concerns about the new campus, which continued even as a blackout hit the university.
Flanked by two armed bodyguards, President David Arnold asked for the audience’s understanding and forgiveness for the problems the university has experienced this semester.
“I want to express my deep personal apology about the problems and suffering that we have encountered at the past two months,” he said.
The forum was hastily organized in response to a sit-in held by dozens of student protesters last week outside the administration building.
The group organizing the protest asked the school provide the details of its contract with food consortium Delicious Inc. and publicize all of its financial records, provide cheaper food alternatives, guarantee the campus is finished by spring, a reimbursement of four weeks of tuition, and a cap on tuition hikes.
During his address at the Motaz El Alfy Hall in the newly opened section of campus, Arnold acknowledged student frustration with the problems AUC has experienced in the move to Kattameya.
Arnold defended the move as the “right decision,” though he was immediately heckled for the comment.
He did not give a definitive answer about when the campus would be fully completed, but said he expected student housing would be ready for tenants at the end of the semester. An updated construction schedule is expected next week, AUC said in a statement.
To address student concerns about food on campus, the university has created a Food Services Committee, and will provide a summary of its agreement with Delicious Inc, the university said.
At the forum, Arnold announced that students would also receive a food coupon worth 200 LE.
He also agreed with the concerns that staff and students have raised about the bus service provided by Family Transport. Drivers for the Heliopolis-based firm have been in at least two accidents since the beginning of the semester.
“Bus service was not that good for the first two weeks of this semester, as many problems were taking place, such as the bus was sometimes full or it wasn’t on time,” Arnold said.
The bus services rebate will be worth 500 LE to each student, a third of the value of the bus pass.
But he said he was not entertaining a tuition refund of any kind. In its release, the university stated tuition covers 70 percent of education costs, the remainder covered by donations and AUC’s endowment funds.
“We have made a commitment towards offering higher education programs for you, so a reduction of tuition is unnecessary,” Arnold said.
In previous remarks to the Caravan, university officials said AUC has suffered a decline of almost $100 million in the market value of its securities investments, which were largely made with endowment funds.