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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

AUB Strike Suspended, the Truth Behind the PCC incident

Gino's Blog responds to the claims by the Palestinian Cultural Club at AUB (more info).

A lot has been said and circulated regarding the past week’s events in AUB.  Tales of heroism, betrayal, battlefields, espionage, romance, and sometimes-even comedy were all over cyberspace and the campus itself. Some imbecile even declared a ‘jihad’ on the proposed 15-credit policy. Fortunately enough, I had the privilege of being one of the 15 members of the committee tasked with organizing the efforts to try and revoke the 15-credit policy.
How did I get there? Well, to make things clear, no club or society nominated me, for I am not a member of any politically active (or active at all) club or society.  Instead, I wanted to be there to share some logistical know-how that I can thank my scouts years for, and to try to make it clear that it wasn’t the clubs, societies, or what they represent that was going to make this work, but the students themselves whom I believed (like myself) would take the initiative themselves, without being coaxed or ‘recruited’ by a club or society.
My political views are well known to most of you and I am not ashamed of them. Given the circumstances though, where politics should’ve been our last concern, and the fact that rival parties were getting along better than their respective leaders outside the campus, I was inclined to shift and support where I thought was fit. That, plus my mac, landed me with the task of keeping minutes of our four, very long meetings. That is why, I believe, I am especially eligible to deny and/or validate what some people reported happened behind the West 310 room door.
First and foremost, the basics we all agreed upon were as follows:
  • Our movement is not a ‘revolution’ it is a ‘strike’
  • Our official and exclusive speakers will be VP Elias Ghanem and Jeffrey Karam
  • The logo and theme proposed will be the only ones used
  • Dean of Student Affairs Maroun Kisirwani and Campus Police Captain, Captain Shalak and any other university executive must not be obstructed physically in any way, in accordance with the university’s senate amendments in 2007 which make any student obstructing any other student, faculty, or staff, liable to Lebanese authorities and legal persecution
  • The signature ‘USFC’ will be modified to ‘USFC, Clubs and Societies’ and later ‘AUB Student Movement’
I will walk you through the events as they occurred chronologically.
Monday May 17th
The USFC called for a general meeting in West Hall at 6:00 PM. Concerns and plans were voiced and a conclusion was reached that a smaller committee needed to be formed to be able to handle business.
At 7:30 PM, the committee was formed by taking into consideration that all groups and parties be represented in addition of course to the people who are most knowledgeable on the subjects at hand.
Tuesday May 18th
The blueprint for Wednesday’s movement was drawn out and agreed upon and the campus was divided into sectors where USFC and committee members would oversee boycotting efforts and sit-ins and ensure things remain civilized and non-violent.
Wednesday May 19th
The build-up to the 12:00 protest on Main Gate was boycotting of classes in all university buildings except the FM region. The degrees of class boycotting and student cooperation varied widely and several incidents occurred but were properly resolved on the spot. It was clear to us, and to the whole of AUB, that the class boycotting approach at such a sensitive time needed to be reconsidered.
The protest was extremely successful, with numbers exceeding all expectations and behaving in a manner befitting of AUB students. After the march from Main to the Green Oval through West and Nicely and then onto Marquand House to finally get back to the Main Gate, the Provost Ahmad Dallal came out to propose negotiations with the students, to which the VP was hesitant considering no new developments had occurred. Nevertheless, the Provost was given the chance to address the students and got a sweeping reply from Jeffrey Karam.
This is where the protest took an unexpected turn: the microphone was usurped by a student I prefer not to name, even though you all know I’m sure, and this individual called on the crowd to march to OSB. The back-and-forth in the searing sun eventually led to the diminishing of our immense numbers after 5:30 PM, when all classes and offices would no longer be active.
The day was an extremely successful one, which served its purpose in telling the administration that the students were united and determined.
In the meeting to evaluate the day and prepare the next step, 2 new members (one of whom was the mic usurper) entered the closed meeting and demanded to join the committee (which had been working since Monday, and some of its members since well before the previous weekend). Of course, they had every right to be there and were welcomed onto the committee.
To our displeasure, the individual in question was impolite, obnoxious and condescending. Yet, he was not dealt with in the same manner and the meeting produced fair evaluation and a determination to decide what to do next. After several committee members exited the meeting for personal reasons and attachments, the newcomers were deeply offended and threatened to leave the committee. After a back-and-forth, indecisive retreats and comebacks, and rude comments and shouting, the newcomer sat down again and the main plans for Thursday were outlined, leaving the details to be filled by a smaller logistics committee.
Thursday May 20th and Friday May 21st
The day was basically a repeat of Wednesday on a larger scale that would culminate in the evening by students sleeping in front of College Hall. When the 12:00 hour struck, we all gathered in Main, and to our great surprise, the very same individual who had usurped the microphone a day earlier, had done so again and disregarded the decisions he had voted for only hours earlier.
This defection from the plan and the ejection of a small group of people from unity of the students led to undesirable incidents and the harassment of the two main university executives who were aiding us in our right to free speech and free expression, albeit within the law and non-violent. After repeated calls by the VP for those individuals to stop, compounded with the previous breach of protocol by those very same individuals, a statement was issued and signed ‘AUB students’ that these actions are not acceptable and will not be tolerated again. I am sure no AUB student wanted these 2 aforementioned executives to be harassed. Dean Kisirwani’s pacifist nature led him to deny being ‘assaulted’, but a day earlier, the woman who had harassed him, physically, had said in our meeting ‘ma3lei, ma bi sirlo shi, rijjel kbeer’ (it’s ok, he’s a grown man, he won’t get hurt)
That same afternoon, after our meeting was convened, the disruptive individual had garnered a lot of hostility within the committee, and one member motioned to have him voted off and replaced by another, more diplomatic and less hot-headed and less-radical representative. The same indecisiveness and juvenile attitude was administered by this individual, with blatant statements being shouted as he went out, then going back in to ‘search for a megaphone’ to disrupt the meeting. Amid this chaos, half a dozen members of the Palestinian Cultural Club walked in and demanded an apology for the email that did not specify anyone and which was never directed towards the PCC. VP Elias exited the room because of the chaos inside and the PCC members also exited to attend the cultural appreciation event in West Bathish. The PCC wanted an apology or else they would suspend their participation in the cause (which has nothing to do with being Palestinian or not).
They exited and the meeting went on, with no representative of the PCC. The next morning, we were surprised to see the extent of untruthful statements in the flyers they were distributing, and, as hoped for, the student body did not look into it as a truthful statement, but rather a desperate attempt to take the movement somewhere students didn’t want it to go: revolutionary, radical, and extreme-left. This was never a ‘class-struggle’, we never wanted to overrun the university and we certainly did not want to get violent to do so.
As for the absence of truth from the PCC’s shouting and cursing in West Hall Bathish, their representative’s carelessly chosen charged-words backfired, and the untruthfulness of his claims was revealed. He said that the PCC were deliberately sacked from the committee because the committee was racist. He then said they were ordered by the committee to physically obstruct buildings and students. It is interesting to see how that can come to be when they were ‘kicked out’ of the committee according to them. Also, the committee never voted for obstruction of buildings, only that Non-Violent Direct Action (NVDA) which is something practiced all over the world, was an option for Friday’s movement.

An Example of the Preferred Method of Dialogue for Some Members

The Gestures Made Within the West 310 Room with 'Heil Hitler' being yelled
This was just a clarification to all students of what really happened behind closed doors and why the PCC rebelled against the rest of the university students. The next post will handle the proposal, it’s mechanism and what it means exactly.

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