Summer 2008 Vol. VI, No. 4
Inside the Gate
Lebanese Expectations; Teaching in Tehran; A May Explosion
During the general strike called by the General Confederation of Labor
for Wednesday, May 7, a simple protest against the high cost of living
and the low minimum wage soon turned violent. By late afternoon burning
tires and earth and stone barricades blocked many roads-including the
route to the airport. The Hariri International Airport was closed for
Neither as deadly nor as destructive as the July 2006 war, the bullets,
shells, and devastating conflicts of early May were much closer to campus.
Immediately AUB's Crisis Team swung into action, meeting daily to take
important decisions on holding classes, arranging housing for vital hospital
and security personnel, and communicating with the far-flung AUB community.
As soon as decisions were taken, the Office of Information and Public
Relations' Dina Abou Salem made sure the word went out on the AUB website
and by email. Individuals could call AUB's hot line, and through a recently
implemented service, those who had registered their mobile phone numbers
with AUB received updated SMS messages.
AUB's priorities were the safety of all students, faculty, and other personnel,
and for the ongoing function of the hospital. Operating according to an
in-place emergency contingency plan, hospital service never faltered.
According to Dean Cortas, "AUBMC cared for 40 casualties while maintaining
an almost normal occupancy. Its physicians and employees were, as always,
on the job with adequate attendance reaching up to 75 percent on the fourth
day. One hundred and forty beds/mattresses were provided at Dale Home
and AUBMC for individuals who could not get home. In addition 114 meals
were provided for employees."
"Student safety, of course, was my major concern," said Dean
of Student Affairs Maroun Kisirwani. With many students unable to reach
campus on Thursday and Friday, most classes simply did not meet. During
the next week, although the University remained open, classes were suspended
on a day to day basis. International students, particularly those from
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Kuwait were urged by their families and embassies
to return home.
On the morning of Saturday May 10, some 100 students from Saudi Arabia,
Kuwait, and Jordan gathered for evacuation by the Jordanian Embassy. But
plans went awry. The anxious students, watched over by Dean Kisirwani
and VP Jim Radulski, waited all day long near the Main Gate. "We
were worried about stray bullets," said Kisirwani. "The students
were edgy and scared. And so was I." Scheduled for 9 am, the transportation
finally showed up at 5 pm. But the students' long journey home had only
just begun. Transferred in Baabda to Jordanian buses for the trip to Tripoli,
the students were denied entry to Syria and had to return to Baabda, where
they spent the night at the embassy. Officials negotiated throughout the
night, and in the morning what turned into a 33-hour journey continued.
Another priority was the completion of the academic semester. "From
the very beginning we made it quite clear that no credit could be given
if the semester's work was not completed," Kisirwani pointed out.
When the decision came to resume classes on June 19, students outside
the country were given a one-week grace period to return to campus, but
many returned as soon as the airport opened. The Reading Period was eliminated,
allowing examinations to begin as scheduled. Most spring activities fell
victim to the truncated semester. The annual Outdoors event, the Folk
Dance Festival, several lectures, and a concert organized by student clubs-all
cancelled. The Job Fair, set up for the doomed Thursday, attracted only
a trickle of job seekers. But students took exams on schedule and the
semester finished on time.