Celebrating Our 140th Anniversary
  STRIKE! AUB Students Make History
The Italian Attack on Beirut. Part 2/4
Activism and the Y Generation
Exploring Tripoli
Exhibiting the Past: Priceless
Uncovering the History of Lebanon
Nature in the Design
The Finer Things in Life
A Journey from Geology to Iconography
 
 
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Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3

Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

Strike! AUB Students Make History

AUB became so famous for its political demonstrations, particularly after 1948, that the situation was satirized as typical of the AUB experience.  In the 1952 April Fool’s Day issue of the student newspaper, Outlook, that was renamed Lookout on that day every year, the editors posted the following notice calling on the students to come out to air their grievances:

Important Notice

There will be a demonstration this afternoon at 3 in front of the Medical Gate to object against everything[.]  All those interested please report there promptly five miuutes [sic] before time.  The demonstration promises to be very exciting—tear gas will be used, and the slogans are simply delightful.  If all goes well, police interference is expected.  If not to join, come and watch.”

What follows are just a few of the archival texts— many from the student paper Outlook—that remind us of some of the demonstrations that defined the AUB experience through a tumultuous twenty-year period. These texts reveal a history of events and the edgy atmosphere that led Newsweek Magazine to refer to AUB as “Guerrilla U” in 1970.

1953: Support your convictions
President Stephen Penrose published a statement in Outlook in 1953, calling on students to “…have the courage to support your convictions, but be sure that your convictions are right. See that they are acquired by objective reasoning and not by any form of prejudice. Your convictions are not necessarily right just because they are yours. If you hold them only for this reason then you must expect and allow anyone else to be just as determined concerning his own personal views. This kind of rock-ribbed and wooden-headed individualism leads to atomism, not unity. In the student body of AUB unity is to be treasured especially because at times it has been so rare. I hope we may this year seek it seriously, for the greater good of all.

March 27, 1954: Protest of the Baghdad Pact
Excerpts: Stephen L. Penrose University Senate Minutes

From early morning Saturday strong forces of police and gendarmes took up their stands at the gates of the University. The campus was fairly quiet until 11 o’clock, although the atmosphere was tense…

A few minutes before 12 o’clock the procession marched from the Main Gate around the library and then down toward the Medical Gate. This gate had been closed and chained by the security force. When the demonstration arrived near the Social Sciences Building Mr. Thabit Mahayni, President of the Urwat, spoke to the crowds denouncing the alleged attempts of Western powers to bring pressure upon Iraq and the new Pakistan-Turkish Pact, and criticized the Lebanese Government and Mr. Yafi in particular for preventing the students from expressing their protest in public demonstration. Following the speech

students proceeded towards the gate and decided to open it by force. The security forces were supported by fire engines and the fire brigade directed the water hoses on the students.

A large number of students had carried stones in their pockets and they began to stone the security forces. The security forces were quiet for a little while, contenting themselves with the water that was directed against the students. However, the Fire Department had brought only two trucks of water and they were soon exhausted. The students continued to throw stones and the security forces threw the stones back at them.

This lasted for a little while and then the shooting began…There were bullet marks on the iron fence, on the northwest corner of Post Hall, on the west of the Pharmacy Building which produced ricochets. There are bullet marks in trees in front of the Social Sciences Building and on the walls of the Social Sciences Building from knee height to high on the building, proving that live bullets were fired at body height as well as in the air over the heads of the students.

From the time the shooting began the security forces were very severe and rather brutal. There are reports that they even dragged a student from an ambulance and hit him. Some of the doctors and technicians, even though wearing white coats, risked their lives in order to remove some wounded…

Upon investigation at the AUB Hospital we found that 26 injured students reached the Hospital.

It has been stated that the shooting from the security forces did not come from the police but from the gendarmerie, and they claim that the first shot came from a building inside the University and from adjacent buildings outside the campus.

1955: We want to learn

It is the university’s function to train us, its students and future spokesmen of our countries, to face the problems of everyday life. How can we do that when we are only here to attend lectures and take notes? How can we be the future liberators of our respective countries if we are not taught how to practice the basic important factors that lead to freedom from oppression?

Students should have the right to voice their own opinions in matters that concern them.

We, the student body, are not puppets….We think. That is why we are here. We have our own life to shape. That is what we have come to learn how to do. We have our own voice to express. That is what we hope to do.

1967: Students Protest U.N. Partition of Palestine
Over seven hundred students gathered in front of West Hall last Wednesday at 10 o’clock and marched silently to the Assembly Hall in a gesture of condemnation of the U.N.’s partition of Palestine on November 27, 1947. The march, organized by the Arab Student League, culminated with speeches by Distinguished Professor Constantine Zurayk, Professor Yusuf Ibish and student, Suhail Hamam. Among those present were Dean Louis Cajoleas, Dean Robert Najemy, Dr. Eli Salem, Nabil Dajani and other members of the administration and faculty.

Dr. Zurayk spoke about the recent setback experienced by the Arab countries and emphasized the fact that such events can either destroy nations or motivate them to a fresh and more positive start.

Suhail Hamam… called for the continuation of the opposition to the situation of Palestine emphasizing the need for an unwavering determination to win the struggle at hand.

Prof. Yusuf Ibish completed the series of speechs [sic] by stressing the fact that it is not enough to have weapons, machinery and other such tools to overcome the opponents. He stated that education and individual qualities are just as important if not more so. A development of positive enthusiasm and personal advancement as a form of preparation for future confrontations is therefore an essential prerequisite for success.

1970 “Guerrilla U” -Newsweek Magazine
According to a reporter, “Politics at AUB today is tied directly to the Palestinian guerrilla movement… The aggressive young men and women who spring from AUB appear torn between admiration for their American-Style education and distrust of the country that offers it. ‘Of course we reject American foreign policy and the capitalist mentality of most Americans,’ an AUB student who doubles as a guerrilla group leader said recently. ‘But we have also learned to respect a culture that gives rebels even the right to think and say what they want. If there should be a Palestinian state run by us, it would be anti-imperialist, anti-Washington and anti-bourgeois. But I don’t believe it would be truly anti-American.’”

1971: The 28 day sit-in:
Excerpts: “Day to Day Rundown of Developments”:

Monday, May 10
The three-man Student Affairs Committee (composed of Committee Chairman Elie Salem, Provost Samir Thabet and Dean of Students Robert Najemy) reveals to 15 student representatives…that the Administration has decided to raise tuition fees by 10 per cent starting with the academic years subsequent to 1971-72.

Tuesday, May 11
The Student Council holds its weekly meeting in West Hall and takes a unanimous decision late in the evening to issue a statement Wednesday, May 12, calling for an open strike starting Thursday, May 13, to protest the unilateral and surprise decision of the Administration.

Wednesday, May 12
The Student Council issues a statement protesting the 10 percent increase tuition fees to be effective next semester… The Student Council statement goes on to call for an open strike starting Thursday, May 13 until the President of this University comes out with a clear cut statement in which he:
1. Declares the cancellation of the 10 percent increase in tuition fees.
2. Announces his readiness to negotiate with the Student Council the possibility of reasonable decreases in the current tuition fees.
3. Declares his acceptance of the Student Council demands to investigate the books of the University at the Comptroller’s Office to see whether there are reasonable grounds for decrease in current tuition fees.

Thursday, May 13
AUB students start the open strike by abstaining from classes. Busloads of Squad 16 policemen remain parked off campus for the whole day. Tight security measures stall University entrances filter students, faculty and members of the Administration and non-academic staff only into campus. Others are prevented from coming in…

Friday, May 14
Scores of students congregate outside West Hall at 10 a.m. on this second day of strike and march on to College Hall where they stage a two-hour sit-in…The sit-in at College Hall, where most of the Administration offices are found, is seen as an escalation of the open strike, the students close the doors of College Hall thus making it impossible for members of the administration to enter or to leave the building…
[Speaking on behalf of the Student Council, Bassam] Diab goes on to say in the name of the Student Council: ‘…the intended increases would have adverse effects on economic and social conditions in Lebanon – they would increase obstacles for the lower and middle income groups to join the university and would accelerate the rise in cost of living in Lebanon.’

Saturday, May 15
The strike enters its third day running without incident. The ‘Voice of the Students’ broadcasts from West Hall statements calling for reversal of the Administration decision.”
Academic Program Is Suspended…
Following ‘No Vote’ to Proposals and Occupation of Jessup, Fisk Halls, Including Office of the Dean; Maher Masri: ‘It’s Just What We Expected!’”

Excerpts:
President Samuel B. Kirkwood suspended last night the AUB academic program for the year 1970-71. His move, according to Student Council President Maher Masri, was ‘just what the students expected.’

It came a few hours after the students had embarked on their ‘creeping occupation’ by midnight of Jessup and Fisk Halls, including the office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences…

‘In Jessup Hall,’ said Masri, ‘the office of the dean has become the office of the students.’

As of Wednesday morning all of the medical students from the first, second, third and fourth years will go on strike.

October 11, 1971: Proving our mettle
Letter to Studentsfrom the Student Council

The Administration has been able to describe the strike and its underlying motivations as ‘political’ in nature. Some administrators claimed the strike was part of the tug-of-war on campus between the Right and the Left. Others associated it with the movement to liberate Palestine. Some administrators referred to it as a Zionist-inspired plot to close down the University. Others passed the word that it was directed against the AUB workers and tourism in Lebanon…etc.

We, the students, were able to prove our mettle throughout the 28-day strike and as recently as last Saturday, October 9, when we turned the NSP ( Nutrition Science Program) Farm Trip into a demonstration of solidarity with our 22 colleagues who have been suspended from the University. In recent days, we expressed our dismay over the reprisal measures taken by the Administration to suffocate the voice of the students through the display of posters; the organization of fund drives and sessions of the Speaker’s Corner; the endorsement of an appeal for reintegration of the suspended students by over 1,200 of their colleagues; the rendition of ‘strike songs’ such as ‘We Ahall [sic] Overcome’ and ‘O Freedom’ at the Hangout Party and the Farm Trip; and the financing of LOOKOUT…etc.

Student participation in the University’s educational and administrative affairs should become part of the students’ education. Needless to say that student participation should be built on the premise of freedom and democracy.

April 1, 1974: The strike reinterpreted
We are not struggling for ourselves only, but for the type of institution we will be leaving to future generations in a society such as the ones we belong to.

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