BEIRUT: The Cabinet failed Thursday to approve key appointments at Lebanese University due to differences among rival parties and ministers.
Cabinet members told Education Minister Elias Bou Saab that his agreement with the head of the Future bloc MP Foud Siniora over appointments was not enough and more discussion was required to finalize the issue, political sources told The Daily Star.
Ministers allied with MP Walid Jumblatt and the Kataeb as well as Tourism Minister Michel Pharon opposed Bou Saab's agreement with the March 14, prompting the Cabinet to postpone debate on the issue to the upcoming session scheduled for July 9.
Bou Saab has agreed with Siniora on the number of university professors to be appointed as fulltime lecturers as well as the names of deans to fill vacant posts on the university council. The council has been operating with acting deans since 2004.
The board of deans at LU has postponed exams in protest of the government's failure to make the appointments. The university also demand the government promote contract lecturers so that they enjoy the same benefits as full-time employees.
Despite holding doctorate degrees and having worked at the university for years, contract professors earn their salaries every two years and are not allowed to enroll in the National Social Security Fund.
Professors have been on a strike to pressure the Cabinet, arguing that failure to appoint deans has led the council to lose its power, placing LU under the governance of its president and the education minister.
Meanwhile, contract professors at LU held a protest in Downtown Beirut to coincide with the Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail. After the end of the government session, Bou Saab met with the protesters who were angered by the Cabinet's failure to resolve the issue, vowing that the matter would be resolved in next week's meeting.
“I wanted to give you some good news about the university file, but unfortunately, the issue has not been resolved yet,” Bou Saab told reporters after the end of the session.
"The university will be at a great risk if Cabinet fails to make the appointments by next week.”
The minister said he had held several meetings with the various political blocs in the past 40 days and would continue doing so until an agreement was reached.
Bou Saab said the Kataeb rejected the proposed appointments "because the party needed to know reasons that motivated each appointment."
Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said the Cabinet discussed the issue of LU appointments and employing part-time professors, saying Bou Saab would explain in the upcoming session the rationale behind them.
As in every public institution, the government is trying to achieve a sectarian balance in the appointments amid reservations by some political parties on the number of part-time professors.
A minute of silence was observed by the ministers out of respect for former Prime Minister Rashid Solh who passed away last week.
The Cabinet met under Prime Minister Tammam Salam at 10 a.m. to discuss 119 items on the agenda in line with a new mechanism devised by ministers to regulate the work and prerogatives of the government under a presidential void.
The substantial number of items was due to backlog, as the Cabinet has beeen working on developing a mechanism to govern its affairs for weeks.
Ministers were able to sign 150 outstanding decrees during the morning session, which ended at 4 p.m.