Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

100 Years of AUC


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Yesterday, my university, my alma mater started its Centennial celebrations- the first of many events happening over the coming year. AUC was established in 1919 and has grown into so much more than it was when it was first established. AUC is like the ivy league of the region, even though it’s a liberal arts not R1 institution.

The celebration yesterday was bittersweet. On the one hand, I am still a proud alumna of this institution, which gave me so much, where I had so many great teachers and mentors and friends. Where I enjoyed learning as a student, then TA and staff (instructional technologist and faculty developer since 2003) and finally as a faculty member (now, since 2014).

I took a photo with my mom who used to work at AUC as a senior physician and loved being there (funnily, she started working at AUC just before I graduated). My mom who encouraged me to join AUC (a privilege) at a time I didn’t realize how big of deal it was to take advantage of that privilege. My mom who helped me stay in touch with AUC so that when I came back to work, it felt like I hadn’t left at all…

I took photos with my first boss at AUC Dr. Aziza Ellozy (but she is so much more as a mentor and second mother to me) and my current department director (but more importantly old-time friend and co-teacher) Hoda Mostafa. Despite everything that goes wrong with AUC, I love these two women for the positivity they bring to our department in whatever ways they can despite structural and systemic issues at AUC. There were many others I loved at AUC who mentored me and make me love this place…it’s difficult to name them all and not all were there yday during the short time I spent…

But also….

It is now publicly known that AUC Senate recently voted no confidence in AUC’s president (AUC student newspaper Caravan coverage, NYTimes) after a General Faculty Meeting voted to do this. Believe me when I say that although the recent Pompeo visit was part of the outrage, it is so much more and has been brewing for so long.

For me, one of the key things about AUC is that its Americanness (potentially colonizing) is offset by a good number of really critical Egyptian faculty (and American and Western faculty allies) who care about practicing democracy (participatory decision-making and shared governance) and advocating for social justice within this institution’s walls not just for themselves but for students and staff as well. And this has been a struggle for years, even before this administration, for longer. I won’t get into specifics here…

And yet…

Despite all of this, AUC is still by far the better institution in Egypt. Not because of research or quality of technical education…but because of the liberal arts education and the overall environment that nurtures the development of students as citizens of the world. This combination of critical thinking, self-efficacy and broad-mindedness matters in an Egypt where people are struggling to know whom and what to believe and how to constructively dialogue with one another. AUC builds this social and cultural capital – and yes the majority of its student body are already elites and it reproduces their privilege as Westernized elites. I won’t and can’t deny that. But it also offers opportunities for others and it also manages, somehow, to produce critival citizens who are both global citizens and also potentially good local citizens with a broad perspective. And Egypt needs that more than technically proficient doctors and engineers (but I am a biased AUCian with a Westernized education teaching in a Westernized institution, so I may be wrong).

And the important thing is, we can celebrate AUC’s existence for 100 years, an institution that brought good American-style education to Egypt and the region, while resisting a hegemonic approach to running this institution, and insisting on shared governance where faculty and students and staff…the people who make this institution what it is…have the power to take it in directions they believe it should go.

It is important that we model for our students constructive political dialogue and action and advocacy….though sometimes, our students themselves do a great job of it all on their own.

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