BEIRUT: A crowded and impassioned meeting of American University of Beirut students campaigning to scrap a proposed tuition hike ended Tuesday evening with a vague decision to strike for one day next week, although divisions over future actions continued to hang in the air.
The meeting, which took place at AUB’s Bathish Auditorium in West Hall, saw hundreds of students gather to debate how best to combat a rise in tuition fees that activists say is not necessary and would make the world-class institution more unaffordable.
“The campus is here for us,” shouted one student.
“We want to strike, the students have to strike,” added another.
The meeting was mediated by members of the Tuition Increase Committee, a student group campaigning to stop the fee hike. The TIC, however, did not officially back calls for a strike, a proposal that was led instead by individual AUB students.
On top of a strike of some sort on March 11, other forms of action discussed included a sit-in outside the residence of AUB President Peter Dorman – against whom there was a palpable sense of resentment – an awareness-raising sticker campaign, and peaceful flash mobs on campus.
An open-ended strike ahead of the March 20 Board of Trustees meeting on the university’s annual budget was also touted, but was met with mixed reactions.
And despite repeated calls for unity among the student body, political overtones and rivalries still made their way into the meeting, something that some believe will only play into the hands of the administration.
“This is exactly what the admin is counting on – using political tensions in order to divide the student body so they can continue to count on students to provide 89 percent of their budget,” said a second-year grad student who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject.
“The issue goes beyond transparency, it’s about structured exploitation,” she added.