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Occupy AUC…But When?

Activist Ahmed Ezzat responds to CairoScene's satirical piece about Occupy AUC...

Last week we published a signature CairoScene satirical article about the AUC protests. The  post garnered 314 likes, 17865 views and, somewhat surprisingly, countless critical comments  from  riled up students who had seemingly missed the day sense of humor / not taking yourself too seriously / sarcasm was being taught (perhaps they were protesting). So we were delighted when Ahmed Ezzat  - an activist and passionate defender of campus causes, ani nsider - decided to comment as follows: 

“Oh god no! I was very disappointed in those who reacted against the short movie about Islam in a way that took the movie from unknown into the most popular on the planet, those who where too mad about relating aggression to Islam so they went and burnt a place to prove.. that they are?  Now you guys come and attack them for writing this piece? Seriously you well educated people? Well let me tell you sthng, I have spent years and years of activism and fighting on campus, got beaten, had a case fired against me and was about to get kicked off AUC because of how serious I take this… but I laughed my ass off when I read this piece! Ever heard of sarcasm?  This is what people read, laugh and share up to 80 times on Facebook in minutes… they made you laugh, and they gave you a sweet funny platform that you could actually use to even tell more people about what’s happening and what it “really” is; but no you just attack and you don’t use your brains for one single moment of how to turn this into a perfect tool of making more students aware.  Every student at AUC knows very well where do I stand when it gets to student rights, where we stand and how people perceive us, but seriously chill.. 80 people read this and they asked about what’s really happening and you’ve reached more people.  Thanks for that Cairo Scene, maybe make them write another piece in 2 weeks that you actually “took the fee increase off” and you finally established the “Tuition Cap” model that will help the returning students financially. See everyone who’ll read my comment will get to know the 2 main reasons behind what’s happening, oh smart me!”

And so we figured, who better to invite to write their own (perhaps more sensible) article on the escalating goings-on on campus than Ahmed Ezzat himself. So, all you too-serious-for-school students, here you go, enjoy… 

Coming soon to your university schedule – Strike Week! Am I making fun of recent events at the AUC? Absolutely not: me and many others have been fighting to introduce activism as a legitimate platform at the American University of Cairo for a couple of years now.

Those who still believe AUCians are shallow minded, spoiled brats and don’t care about their university are probably still using Nokia phones; this campus is becoming politically aware day by day. I still remember exactly one year ago when the “community” joined forces against the administration. You’d look into our main planning room and see members from HUSS, BEC,  Steps and every other group or clique. That means it was a coalition of every kind of person involved with the AUC including those who CAN afford tripled fees, students who depend on full scholarships, students in skinny jeans, students inhijab, freshmen, seniors, alumni, professors, security officers and maintenance staff.

I remember I celebrated my birthday while we slept on campus in front of the Admin building to make sure we’d be the first to approach other students and staff. We even had planning meetings with figures like Dr. Amr Hamzawi, Dr. Rabab El Mahdy (who was part of the movement) and many other strategic and political activists. Yes, it was that serious. We had weekly schedules with a minimum of three possible scenarios on each step we take in order to be ready. We had plans for keeping people around us and making sure the cause was in the spotlight.  We worked out how to mobilise, what to cover internally and what to send out to the media. We even planned out “mistakes” we made on purpose to grab more attention. We stood against corruption in all university sectors. We fought for the rights of each and every member of the community, and we were never afraid. I remember marches of 2,000 students clapping their hands together, speaking up for themselves and marching towards dignity.

It was success in so many ways: wages of workers were pushed up, temporary staff got their contracts, some on-campus services that were overpriced were regulated and a car pooling system became active this semester. But to me the success was that 2000 students stood up for their right and the platform of activism on campus became much bigger.

Last year's successful protest

So now we have an established database, credibility among 2000+ students, the power and the will to make a difference. Then the new academic year started and the administration decided to increase the tuition fees once again neglecting all the struggles and as if nothing had happened the year before. Now all you need to do is plan bigger, recall your forces, charge them up and execute. It’s a long battle to fight, especially when you’re up against an administration led by a well-respected woman who is known for her political prowess. Unfortunately, some students got too excited and acted irrationally without planning or strategising and expected others to join. Not only that, but they didn’t realise that their strikes and demands might be selfish.

On Sunday September 16th, a group of 60 or so students arrivde on campus at 7am, closing the gates with their own chains. Buses arrived dropping students, faculty and staff outside and no one was allowed to enter. No one talked to the students and staff and no one explained the cause. All they did was shout from the inside: “THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!!” Hours later, they start allowing faculty and staff in only, while students are still outside. You only get in if you know one of the protestors. Yes, you need a wasta.

I arrived and as I walked through the crowd, I overheard them describing their shock.  When I reached the gates and they let me in just out of respect to the ex-SU Vice President. I asked everyone I came across what they were planning.  Surprisingly no one knew what the next step was; the last bullet point on their plan was locking the gates from the inside. CHAOS! Clashes started between students, the faculty backed off from supporting the movement and the administration addressed protestors as violent students, breaking the rules. I paused, looked around and tweeted: “Epic fail #OccupyAUC”

I was disappointed yet giving up will never be an option for me. We, rational students of AUC, will forever support the cause, stand against corruption and fight for student rights. Incidentally, their first and foremost right is to enter the campus at any time they want.

On Sunday September 16th night, SU Vice President Nizar El Zanaty was suspended and tudent activist Mohamed Hassan and a couple of more and they are barred from the campus. Protesters replied by closing the university again yesterday but I have information from a credible source that Wednesday (tomorrow) will be the biggest event and the activists will take some serious action on behalf of the suspended students.

Meanwhile, an underground group of alumni, students and faculty have formed a committee we call Damage Control. We’re trying to communicate with both sides to support the cause and the suspended students, but also to make sure it’s done in a civilised, legal and strategic way. The committee has already drafted a plan, and we’re working on an official statement. The protestors and the SU are expected to issue statements before Wednesday. Too.

Okay, wait, remind me again, please, why is all of this happening again? Well, it’s not just about the amount of money that we pay; it’s about what we get in return. More students entering every semester +same number of classes = More students in each class and reduced education quality.

And it’s not even easy to get into the classes you want: you need to beg for a seat, beg the department, beg the Dean and beg the professors too. I mean, all those un-educated actions must tell you something about the current standards. Poor quality services range from buses that break down every couple of days to closed bathrooms because of  a “water shortage” that turned out to be not true. Another example is that students must pay for parking yet the university sheds responsibility for anything that might happen to your car.

I personally urge all students to keep following all angles of the story, and collectively act towards the benefit of the university. You are all leaders within. Think rationally and do what you think is right. Today’s protestors need to rethink their strategy and the remaining students need to get involved and be more proactive.

Find out more about #OccupyAUC by following @A__Ezzat


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