Today, I was proud to say that I was taking part in something new. Something beautiful and exciting. I was being part of a much-needed change.
Today was the first day in the month of October. Today, the Byblos campus of LAU woke up to the unfair and unsignaled increases in tuition fees. Today, students started taking back their rights as students.
This is my third year in LAU – Byblos. In the past two years, I have not really witnessed many situations where students were really mobilizing for their rights as mere students. In a very politically polarized campus that has two opposing political groups, many students did not feel motivated enough to be more engaged in improving their campus structure and campus life. Also, many LAU officials in the Byblos campus were not doing the best they could to improve our (urban) Byblos campus, out of possible fears things might go wrong. In short, no change was happening, and no opportunities for change where being presented.
What about the student council? Shouldn’t it be fighting this battle?
Political groups were/are taking over the student council, not students. The council was thus rendered inactive, not even moving an inch to fight a major tuition hike – one of the highest in LAU’s recent years.
But, something phenomenal happened today.
More than 800 students, faculty, and staff members came in support of a petition against the recent increases in students’ tuition fees which ranged between 6.22% to 15.14%. The petition was not prepared by any political party – it was created by students for students to a cause close to all of our hearts, and the reaction was outstanding.
The petition initially originated in the Beirut campus. However, Elsa, a friend of mine, and I decided to bring this along to the Byblos campus. At first, it was just the two of us. No booth, no nothing, just some energy and motivation. It was a way for us to spread some hope and engagement with our friends on our campus.
Ultimately, as more and more people met us, we received a lot of positive support and motivation. Several other friends, namely Karim and Ali, volunteered their time to help us out in the process, for without their help we would not have had such a successful outcome, with more to come.
It was a situation where we all felt as one, fighting the same battle. It doesn’t matter which political party you might be supporting, at the end of the day, you will be attending a class on campus.
Some might ask: Is a tuition hike always bad?
The short answer is ‘No’. If an educational institution needs to raise tuition fees in order to have more qualified faculty members, improve its facilities, and maintain high standards in cases of inflation, while having a proportional increase in financial aid, so be it. However, students should have a voice in the decision-making process since any decision taken would be ultimately affecting them and their families. More transparency would be implemented to ensure every penny is spent right and to maintain trust and accountability. This is not exactly the current situation in LAU.
LAU recently inaugurated its academic center in Solidere – Downtown Beirut. Also, a mini-campus is now functional in Manhattan, New York (though most students cannot utilize whatever facilities this campus has to offer). On the other hand, many students have to run to their classes from the university gates on rainy days, getting wet and possibly sick. The size of the library on the Byblos campus is still unbearably small, and the research facilities found in many academic disciplines need more encouragement and funding. This is just to name a few of a long list of improvements our campuses desperately need. So where is this money really going? Do we have a right, as students, for more transparency?
Wait, do you hate LAU?
LAU has been a home to me for three years now. I love LAU. In fact, if I was ever against the university I wouldn’t bother with writing this very blog post you are reading.
I am an LAU student! What can I do to help?
First of all, sign the petition! We will have a stand this Thursday and Friday during Club Sign-Up! Find us!
Also, a booth is up on the upper gate of the Beirut campus. You can do this before or after your classes. If not, make sure to sign it online! Share it among your friends, and spread the love.
Let’s do more on Byblos!
If you have some time to spare, and want to join a group of awesome students in improving the situation of our Byblos campus, don’t hesitate to send us a message on our Facebook page! We’re waiting.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, today (Octover 2), the LAU Byblos gate security prevented us from being active outside the gates, saying that we need permission for that. Though no worries, we managed to get the dean’s permission and will be present louder and stronger Thursday and Friday in a booth during Club Sign-Up! We need all the support we can get.
If you have some time to volunteer at the booth on campus, send us a message on our Facebook page.