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AUB fees strike ends after agreement reached

This article is a repost from the Daily Star (link
BEIRUT: A strike held by students at the American University of Beirut (AUB) was ended on Friday after an agreement was reached between students and university administration.

“The strike has been suspended at this point,” said student council president Elias Ghanem. “This compromise is for the benefit of the students.”

The strike, which began on Wednesday, was called in protest over university plans to raise tuition fees for new students. The proposed policy would have scrapped the university’s existing system whereby student pay for a maximum of 12 credits per semester, and would have raised the minimum number of credits to be paid for to 15.

The policy would have accounted for a rise of $3,000 in fees per year tuition for students starting after Fall 2010. Many students striking also expressed mistrust over how the money raised from the fee rise would be distributed.

“We have submitted a detailed proposal about how to end the strike, and about how to reform financial assistance, and there was a positive reaction to our requests,” said Ghanem.

The proposal submitted by students reduced their initial demand of the university that the proposed policy be scrapped, and instead called for a one-year postponement of the policy, in addition to the creation of an independent body to oversee how funds raised from tuition fees would be spent.

The terms also called for money raised to go toward financial aid, where as previously a portion had been set aside for loan guarantees and “strengthening academic institutions.”

The university agreed to the protesters’ new demands and will present a formal response on Monday morning, according to Ghanem.

The director of information and public relations at AUB, Hikmat Beaini, confirmed the university had agreed to terms with the students.

“The student body proposed a compromise and the administration said yes … The university said many times that we were open to negotiations, this is a positive development,” said Beaini. “The compromise calls for a one-year delay in implementing the new policy, in addition to getting students involved in how financial aid is distributed,” he added.

The strike was called on Wednesday after a “town-hall meeting” the previous day with students and staff, during which the university outlined the proposed policy. Protesters claimed after the meeting that the university was not being transparent about how the money would be used. Nearly 1,000 students rallied outside College Hall on Wednesday before marching to the residence of AUB’s president Peter Dorman.

Witnesses said the protestors were dispersed by AUB provost Ahmad Dallal. A meeting was then held between the university and the student council where the agreement was reached.

On Thursday, Dorman wrote a letter to students in response to their fears over the tuition fee rise. He said AUB’s administrators had heard student concerns over the proposed tuition hike but said only newly enrolling students would be affected. The change in fees would help AUB provide more financial aid to needy students, Dorman added.