AUB Students Launched “We Won’t Pay” Campaign Against Their University

@JamaleddineLama | AUB

The American University of Beirut’s students are calling for a tuition strike after the administration adopted a new dollar exchange rate last month, raising the tuition fees by up to 160 percent.

The AUB Secular club has now initiated the “We Won’t Pay” campaign, following their protest that yielded no response other than police aggression against the demonstrators.

Last month, AUB President Fadlo Khuri announced that tuition fees, calculated in dollars, must be paid at a rate of 3,900 LBP. The decision has made tuition largely unaffordable for many households that are affected by the crippling economic situation in Lebanon.

Khuri justified the decision by stating that it was necessary “for the financial survival of AUB”.

Shortly after, the Lebanese American University (LAU) followed the footsteps of AUB and adopted the same rate of 3,900 LBP.

“I may be putting my education at risk because I only have one semester left before I graduate, but I will not pay the full tuition,” Karim Saadeh, member of AUB’s Student Faculty Committee (USFC), told The National.

Student leaders have stated that they hope the strike will delay payments so that the state regulate’s private university fees before students are forced to drop out.

“This is the last chance for the government to intervene,” Jad El Hani, a member of the AUB Secular Club warned.

However, Lebanon’s legislators are known for acting notably slow or not at all.

Hani shared that student leaders did meet with caretaker Minister of Education Tarek Majzoub to get him to help them with their efforts, but to no effect.

A bill limiting the tuition hike was supposed to be discussed when parliament last met in December, but it was the last topic on the agenda and the session ended before it was even discussed.

The three-week COVID-19 lockdown beginning on Thursday will surely limit students’ ability to protest before the tuition is due, even though students have been demonstrating against the increase in tuition fees for over a month.

Students of AUB said that the administration did not consult them before increasing the fees, and has not been available to respond to requests to meet student representatives to discuss the issue.

“AUB is not behaving like it is based in Lebanon,” Tanios El Kassis, a member of the Parents and University Students Union, told The National. “Can’t they see the economic situation here is terrible? Can’t they see that people have lost their jobs, and 60 percent of Lebanese are now poor?”

“We are not begging for help. We have the solution and we want it to be implemented,” he added.

The Union will attempt to have its solution implemented by meeting again with the Minister of Education Majzoub in the coming days, alongside student leaders.

However, the deadline for paying tuition fees is approaching. It is indeed a difficult time to be a university student in Lebanon.