BEIRUT: Lebanese University administration was condemned over the weekend after images of a new student registration form was published on social media websites. Following a protest last week over an increase in the university registration fee, students were incensed once more with the university administration; this time anger was directed at an image of the new registration document, circulated by unknown sources, showing the addition of a new field requiring students to fill in their sect. In the image found online the new field was located between gender and nationality.
University officials, however, claimed the new field was the result of an error, and that the actual form students will be made to fill out would not include it.
While a hard copy of the registration form has not been made available, as registration was set to begin Monday, students told The Daily Star they were unaware of the actual registration date, and that many were still in the midst of their second examinations.
Images of the form were published on the Internet and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, accompanied with posts expressing outrage and calls to protest by students who attend the university.
The Youth and Sports Office of the Amal Movement expressed surprise with the field in the registration form asking students to state their sect and released a statement to this effect after holding talks with Lebanese University President Adnan Sayyed Hussein.
According to the statement, during the meeting the president said he was going to have the field removed and “confirmed that this was an unintentional error, and pledged to remove it from the forms, change them and correct the mistake.”
Amal also said it “condemned” the error and reaffirmed its commitment to maintaining coexistence and renouncing sectarianism in the country.
It called on Lebanese University students to either leave the box empty or write “Lebanese” in the space provided until administrators issue new forms fixing the error.
It also called for “unifying the Lebanese University faculties’ slogans” to read “We are first, second, third and forever Lebanese” and “Sectarianism is the opposite of citizenship.”
The president could not be reached for comment.
Lebanese University student Hasan, who preferred not to provide his last name, is a second year master’s candidate in English literature at the Dikwaneh branch and was very insistent that he would not fill out the sect slot.
“I will not fill out the slot,” he said. “If the university summoned me and asked me to fill it out, I still wouldn’t.”
Although Hasan doesn’t know who might have leaked the image of the new form, he said it was the responsibility of the university president’s office to handle such matters, and therefore it should be implicated in the revelation.
Hasan also said he would be ready to protest with other students if the issue was not resolved as soon as possible.
But Ghazi Mrad, head of public relations at the university, told The Daily Star that the form shown online is a replica of an older version, which was made “years ago,” and did not reflect this year’s registration form at all.
While some have claimed that this was the first time since its inception in 1951 that Lebanese University has included a field requiring students to state their religion, Mrad said that was indeed the case once.
He also said he did not know who leaked the document.
“In a country full of sectarianism, where politicians publicly speak about sectarianism on television, how could anyone think to implicate the Lebanese University as a participant?” he said.
“I wish we could live in a sectarian-free society.”
Students at the university couldn’t agree more.
Wadih Awwad, who is studying architecture at the Roumieh branch of LU in his fifth and final year, admitted that he would only fill out the sect slot if the university forced him to, but he would personally prefer to leave religion out of it.
He added that politics and religion were behind Lebanon’s inability to remain stable, and more often than not they create problems within the university system and so should be independent from the education sector.
“I am of course against this,” Awwad said.
“This is a university, people go to there to learn. Religion and politics should not be involved.”
Ralph Habchy, 22, also an architecture student at the Furn al-Shubbak branch of LU, said he also strongly opposed the sect box on the registration form and added that he found it to be pointless.
“This is something that should not happen,” Habchy said.
“The university shouldn’t put me in this position.”