Following the USFC cabinet elections, Monzer Hamwi, graduate FAS representative, was voted as the USFC Vice President for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Hamwi, who graduated from the Lebanese University with a BS in physics, is currently an MS candidate majoring in Computational Sciences at AUB.
In an attempt to learn more of Hamwi and his plans for the university, Outlook conducted an in-depth interview with the newly-elected USFC vice president, on Monday, December 21st.
What pushed you to nominate yourself as a candidate for the position of VP?
Well, I’ve been a student here for two years, so I saw what students, especially what graduate ones, are suffering from – lack of research, unavailability of dorms – many bugs in the system are found. I thought if I got that position – and I actually did – I’d serve the students better than others, in my opinion. The electoral law is a priority for me. Everything depends on how the candidates get their position. If we start with a good electoral law, we can deliver good students to these positions. We can definitely improve the reputation of this university by managing our funds in a proper way.
Speaking of the electoral law, which modifications would you apply to our current one?
The electoral system needs to be fairer. We have departments [that are underrepresented] and ones that are given more seats than they deserve. We’re not talking here about numbers or how large the department is. We’re talking about what students should deliver, if their demands are being heard. We need to merge some departments and to divide others. But I need to discuss these things with other USFC members and not just myself.
The National Democracy Institute contacted us [to draft] a new law. Our first and main issue was to conduct statistics for faculties and departments. Following, they sent the proposal. Actually, the proposal was sent to me and Dr. Nizameddin five minutes ago. It’s an introductory proposal, of course, so we’ll need to meet and follow up with them. We can definitely benefit from their experience and they managed more than 60 university elections in Jordan alone. So, in my opinion, it’s a really good chance to get someone to help us put the electoral law.
Why didn’t you make a presentation prior to the elections of the VP, knowing that each candidate is required to do so?
To tell you the truth, I received some calls threatening to physically harm me or some family members, if I nominate myself. They were anonymous calls from private numbers, calling me directly and my friends. Hence, I can’t blame a certain party.
Anonymous callers make threats to harm you, but you are not sure who they are. Why did you choose to believe them?
Sometimes, I could imagine or expect who was calling. But I can’t make accusations. I told the committee that I had a technical error, which wasn’t true. But it’s time to come clean now.
Why did you hold back from making a presentation, and yet still nominate yourself?
I knew that if I didn’t nominate myself, someone else would. Yet, not making a presentation might decrease the chances of me winning.
Are you saying that you did not want to win? If that’s the case, why not quit and have re-elections?
At that moment I didn’t want to win. However, now, I am happy I got the position. I believe that I can serve the university better than other candidates, and students will see my work in the upcoming months.
Many students believe you won with the help of Students for Change’s votes, and this claim is backed by evidence such as a photo at Berri’s palace. How does that make you an independent candidate?
During the first round of the elections, when I got elected as a USFC member, I really was independent and had my friends to support me. We didn’t run under any campaign or get help from [anyone]. All my friends and friends of friends know that. Students for Change, Students at Work and the Secular Club know that as well, notably the Secular Club. When the results were announced, we sat on the stairs facing the Seculars to show that we’re independent. Every time we stood up to celebrate they thought we were with March 8 [since we were close to them].
After that, I got the chance to run for the VP position. At that point, Students for Change already had Ali Ayoub as a candidate (who is my friend). I wasn’t going to run with the Secular Club because they hated me, plus, they already had their own candidate. So I said, why don’t I run and make all the political groups back me up? And that’s what happened: everyone backed me up.
Indeed, the Cultural Club of the South said they won’t back me because they were rooting for Ayoub. So I thought- why didn’t they [Students for Change] all agree on him? They [Students for Change] said I could win under one condition: go with them to Nabih Berri’s palace.
They knew I had my personal biases against that political party but they didn’t mind. Look, if I wanted to work with them, I would have done so from the beginning. But I continued on an independent path because I wanted to. Even my friends who voted for me, I wouldn’t go and tell them “I fooled you”. I would fool a stranger but not my friends whom I see everyday.
How are you planning to gain back the trust of the student body after not being transparent from the beginning?
They will see my work. That’s the only way I can make them trust me. The first meeting in January is very important. People will see my proposal and my agenda. After all, trust needs time to be built. So just give it a few months and they can decide then, based on my work.
How are you going to communicate with the student body?
The connection is going to be based on proposals and follow ups can be done by simply contacting us. We are going to contact our student body in informal ways so we can hear their demands, even those of the teachers. If I can, I’m also willing to publish the minutes of the meetings.
What can you be held accountable for if you don’t deliver on your promises a year from now?
I don’t know if there’s an issue that is that important, but my main concern now is increasing the research fund for all students in all faculties. I would ask the AUB community to be critical and have an open eye to the changes that are about to happen.