The USFC held a town hall meeting in West Hall to discuss issues of interest to the student body on Tuesday, April 18.
The meeting provided an opportunity for students to get to know their representatives on the United Student-Faculty Committee, who were all seated on the stage for a Q&A session. Less than forty students were present.
President Fadlo Khuri started the meeting by stressing the importance of an ongoing dialogue, and admitting that AUB suffers from an issue of communication that exists between AUB students and the administration.
The USFC cabinet members, consisting of Vice President Mohamad Khalifeh, Treasurer Mahmoud Kobeissi, and Secretary Hadi Halabi, introduced themselves and their roles to the audience.
Member Ali Amhaz was also given the floor to speak about some of the achievements of the current USFC. He discussed how USFC representatives brought back the Committee’s involvement with the Fingerprints Project, a financial aid program that allows students to donate to their fellow students when they’re graduating. Each donated dollar is matched with up to $40,000 dollars by the USFC and $20,000 by a trustee.
The opening statements were followed by a brief history of the roles and responsibilities of the USFC, as told by USFC faculty member and Assistant Professor Nada Melhem, PhD.
“The purpose of this meeting is for you to share concerns, ask questions, and to hear from the USFC on any kind of issue that is of concern to you,” said Melhem.
The Q&A session tackled several different issues, including the tuition fees, the lack of students present at the town hall meeting, and the GPA conversion system.
Student Mohamad Chahrour, who is a previous USFC member from the Faculty of Medicine, asked about what the USFC was doing to combat the increasing tuition fees.
Mahmoud Kobeissi stressed the transparency that the current administration is providing to the student body and the USFC.
“We [USFC members] are being able to sit on seats we weren’t previously able to sit on, including the Financial Planning Committee,” said Kobeissi.
President Fadlo Khuri mentioned the importance of looking at AUB’s ultimate goal of providing students with the best possible education, and the importance of comparing AUB –which has made a commitment not to raise its tuition more than 3 percent –to its peer institutions in the US –which are increasing at a 5 to 7 percent.
Student Nader Noueri addressed the issue of no students showing up to these meetings, and recommended that the USFC start talking to clubs and tackling logistic problems to attract more students. He also said that AUBMUN students are not properly supported abroad.
Treasurer Kobeissi mentioned the need of the USFC to be more responsible but also rephrased President Khuri on the apathy existing among the student body.
On the issue of student involvement, Joumana Talhouk discussed the tabled USFC website proposal that she submitted.
“It’s important to make it an interactive platform where you don’t have to skip your class and come to the town hall to suggest to the USFC, but you can just do it immediately through the website,” said Talhouk, also mentioning the USFC ‘Open House’ proposal.
Secretary Hadi Halabi was more open about the subject, and President Khuri was open-minded about “whatever works to foster dialogue.”
“We are wrong,” said Halabi. “We should be held responsible for this amount of students, and we should have done something more interesting to reach out to the students.”
Nour Hachem asked about the controversial GPA conversion proposal, to which Dean Talal Nizameddin, PhD, responded that the Senate must agree on a template before sharing the content, but that another proposal was being finalized.
USFC representatives Joseph Habib and Amal Kassem are on the committee working on the proposal and respectively reassured students that they won’t be disadvantaged by it.
“We’re scrutinizing every detail and making sure that no one is going to get hurt,” said Habib.
Student Farah Rohayem mentioned that what was previously called ‘‘student apathy’ is in fact the lack of trust towards the USFC because of their inner political disputes.
Several USFC members had different perspectives.
“We don’t always agree on everything, but at the end of the day we all have the students’ best interest at heart,” said Joseph Habib, who ran as an independent candidate during the elections.
Mahmoud Kobeissi discussed credit-seeking as a problem.
Joumana Talhouk added that the lack of trust “comes partly from the fact that we don’t really communicate our achievements and the belief that we can’t really achieve anything at all.”
Nadine Harb and Nazih Bizri respectively mentioned that representatives “achieve a lot of things that don’t end up in meeting minutes” and that “work should not be defined by amounts of proposals they submit.”
Youmna Mroue also asked about the achievements of the USFC. Several were listed including: adding water coolers to faculties, changing the curriculum for the Nutrition and Dietetics program, a new transportation scheme, opening Nicely classrooms for studying, and the Safer Campus Initiative.
Several other questions, such as those addressing the basis upon which students are selected to be on committees such as the Financial Planning Committee and the Anti-Smoking Committee, and the marginalization of certain political minorities in the USFC, were also tackled.
Dean Talal Nizameddin concluded by mentioning that structural issues within the USFC, as previously mentioned by Joumana Talhouk, create problems of communication and action. He added that sometimes, the structure offers a healthy form of bureaucracy that ensures the best proposals are pitched during USFC meetings.
“This is one ship: the USFC ship,” concluded Nizameddin. “It sinks together, and floats together.”