After students took to the streets to protest the most recent decision of their universities to set the dollar rate for tuitions at 3,900 L.L, two students of the Lebanese American University (LAU) have been on a daily sit-in, for over a week now, even during the current lockdown.
Like many other students, Nader Akoum and Leen El-Harake are asking LAU to cancel the raise of Spring 2021’s tuition fees, increase their transparency with the student body, and partner up with the elected student council members.
Nader Akoum told The961 that the main reason behind this strike is not just for LAU but for all educational institutions that have upped their dollar rate amid a crippling economic situation, notably LAU and AUB.
“In a very short period of time, they are expecting us to adapt to this change,” Akoum told us. “This will put the education of several students at risk.”
Akoum explained that students are being exposed to simplified documents that justify the increase in a vague manner, when, in reality, students have no idea how the tuition is being invested or allocated.
“We’re concerned if AUB and LAU are using student’s tuitions the way they should. We don’t even know if the staff at these universities are still getting paid at the old dollar rate or the semi-official one,” he said.
When asked how the daily sit-in will look like with the coming complete lockdown, Akoum explained that they will be moving into an online program, with webinars and open discussions through digital platforms.
Up until now, LAU has not responded to the daily strike of Akoum and El-Harake.
“The strike is going to continue until the day change in the tuition fee is officially activated,” Akoum stated. “There will be more dire measures from our end, such as boycotting classes as well as payments.”
Leen El-Harake, who is the LAU’s vice president of the student council, posted a video message on Tuesday, addressing the legality of this situation.
She explained that the students of LAU and AUB who decide not to pay their tuition at 3,900 L.L will be actually abiding by the law and not acting against it, “because it is the administrations of LAU and AUB that are transgressing,” she said.
She revealed that, during their session on Tuesday with Lawyer Jad Tohme and Beirut Madinati, it was explained to them that Lebanon’s Monetary and Credit Law binds all institutions on Lebanese territories to deal in the Lebanese Pound.
It means that, as long as the official rate of the Central Bank is 1,500 L.L, students must pay their tuition based on that rate,” she noted.
“And this is what will happen,” El-Harake pointed out.
She further explained that Lebanon’s High Education Law binds all private educational institutions to submit their budgets to the Ministry of Education before they increase their tuition fees. “The last time that happened was in 2014, according to what the minister told us,” she said.
“The administrations of private universities today are making decisions without [ministerial] supervision and without accountability. So, for sure, for sure, we won’t pay,” she stressed, concluding her message.
Students have already begun their “We Won’t Pay” campaign, a tuition strike to stand against the imposing of the unofficial exchange rate.