By Menna Taher
Student organization leaders said new expenses and university restrictions on the new campus are costing them, while transportation concerns and the campus’ remote location are obstacles to attracting new members.
The main reason clubs will lose money, according to Aida Maged, director of the office of student organization committees, is a new restriction on food caterers and sponsors.
An agreement was signed last year with Delicious Inc., the company that provides the food outlets for AUC, which bans other competitors. Therefore, sponsors will not be allowed to put up booths or distribute their products for free on campus.
“In the old campus, the contract was signed with United Enterprises, so students only had to ask this company for permission to get a food caterer. Delicious Inc., however, is a collaboration of many companies, which makes it hard to ask each one for permission,” Maged said.
According to Student Union (SU) Vice President Heba Azzazi, the university’s clubs combined are expected to lose 500,000 L.E. from their budgets this year.
“Club members will have to pay from their own budgets, which is unrealistic and it’s hard to ask [the university] for compensation when the club issue is not on the priority list of the problems regarding the new campus.” Azzazi said.
When asked how much money the catering provided, Salma Abu Hussein International Conference of Global Economy (ICGE) organizing committee head said it contributed to about 80% of the their total budget.
Meanwhile, Nada Abdel Hay, president of the Entrepreneurs Society said that catering accounts for up to 50,000 L.E. of their annual budget.
Also hurting budgets, club leaders say, is the new expense of having to provide bus services to the campus on weekends for their non-AUC members.
Various club members, along with SU representatives asked for compensation for the clubs from the vice president of student affairs, Ashraf El Fiqi.
El Fiqi said he would try to get sponsorship from corporate companies like Mobinil, one of three mobile phone service providers in Egypt. He also promised to provide transportation for clubs members, AUCians and non-AUCians alike, on weekends.
Eman Kourtam, the president of Alashanek ya Balady, an on-campus charity club, said that it will be hard for outsiders to apply for the club since the campus is far away.
Another concern for Kourtam is the distance between the campus and Ain el Seera, an underdeveloped neighborhood situated in Old Cairo that members traditionally visited and worked with orphans.
“[That area] was very close to AUC, now I’m concerned that we will visit less,” Kourtam said.
Despite the obstacles, some students said they would not be prevented from taking part in club activities. Mina Fathy, the former IT head of ICGE, said that he would stay longer hours on campus if he had a meeting, and on weekends the members would meet downtown.
In the first two weeks on the new campus, clubs have also faced a shortage of booths for displaying advertisements, and have used tables instead. The setup doesn’t aid clubs in attracting people, said Abdel Hay. “A booth gives more freedom for creativity, we could hang banners or decorate it, now, there is only a table available,” she said.
“Also, the campus is too large for proper advertisement. On the old campus we used to put up piñatas and balloons in the SS (Social Science building) and everyone knew about it,” added Abdel Hay.
The new version of the advertisement and promotion policy that is designed for the new campus would also hinder public relations for clubs. It is a pamphlet, with set regulations, that includes the ban of banners. “The rules are set that way so the campus wouldn’t look like a market.” Azzazi explained.
The university is attempting to help clubs with the transition. Cubicles will be provided for each club and there are 20 movable booths under construction, Maged said. The Student Union’s welcome pack, consisting of planners, equipment and gifts for students, is being distributed at the beginning of the semester as always.
Rihab Saleh, the secretariats head of ICGE, was philosophical about the challenges facing clubs on the new campus. “It’s a two edged sword, either we take advantage of it or dwell on how bad the situation is.”