Spring 2006 Vol. IV, No. 3
Celebrating our 140th Anniversary
Activism and the Y Generation
Student activism has a long history at AUB: in 1882, students supported
the teaching of Darwinian theory against the administrations will;
in the 1970s, students occupied university buildings to protest tuition
increases; as recently as last year there were massive student demonstrations
against the Syrian presence in Lebanon in the aftermath of AUB Trustee
Rafic B. Hariris assassination. Although the conventional wisdom
is that the men and women of todays Y Generation are
less active, the truth is that student activism is now, and will always
be, alive and well at AUB.
AUB has historically been a place that offers its students a top-notch
education and also acts as an incubator for the formation of a number
of political movements that have sometimes had an impact on the students
countries of origin. Among the movements that were born and nurtured on
campus and later attracted nationaland even internationalattention
are pan-Arab groups such as Al-Urwa al-Wuthqa and Harakat al-Qawmiyoun
al-Arab. Student activism at AUB has always stood in stark contrast to
what can be observed at other campuses, and has consistently been characterized
by its pluralistic nature, which has allowed different factions to voice
their concerns in a civilized and democratic manner. AUB students have
been in the forefront of youth movements, most especially those relating
to pan-Arab issues. These movements often mirror the Lebanese kaleidoscope
while at the same time taking into account student concerns. The socioeconomic
makeup of AUBs diverse student body, which has always included students
from different social classes and many countries, has been one of the
major catalysts for robust student activity on campus.
So what has changed over the years?
Although the ingredients that make AUB what it isthe mix of higher
education, democratic ideals, and multiculturalismmay have changed,
the University remains a unique environment.
Activism at AUB is primarily guided by a sense of duty toward ones
community rather than just toward a particular group or faction. This
is mainly due to the legacy established by AUBites who have spearheaded
reform movements in their communities. AUBs political factions have
learned that it is never possible to import ideologies from off campus
without adapting them first to AUBs demanding standards of tolerance
While many are politically active, the vast majority of AUB students do
not belong to any organized student group. Those students who do participate
in clubs and societies often do so without any political affiliations.
These independents, as they are known on campus, play a vital
role in energizing student life and ensuring that the radical fringe does
not monopolize the scene.
Student activism at AUB is defined by the democratic environment that
AUB fosters. Our highly competitive, sometimes controversial student elections
are always conducted in a civilized and democratic manner. Yes, there
can be sweeping victories, but the culture is such that no group can ever
deny the right of other groups and individuals to peacefully campaign
and try to attract student support for their platforms. This opportunity
to actively participate in elections is a luxury that students at most
universities in Lebanon do not enjoy. Although the administration does
not recognize political parties and maintains a neutral political line,
it does allow all student groups to freely express themselvesas
long as they dont violate university rules and regulations.
All of these factors have allowed for a healthy and vibrant student movement
in a country whose political system is deadlocked in an age-old stalemate.
AUB students today may not be living in the golden age of student activism,
but activism at AUB remains an integral part of life on campusand
we can assume that it always will be!