The American University in Cairo, founded in 1919, has gone through its share of vicissitudes as an American institution in Egypt. Based throughout its existence in a cramped campus in the heart of modern Cairo, at Tahrir Square, the university is currently building a much larger home in a desert location called New Cairo. As can be imagined, the move is not without its stresses. Here is the latest one, as reviewed by the university's president, David Arnold.
Date: Sun, 11 Nov 2007 14:43:32 +0200
From: AUC President <email@example.com>
Reply-To: AUC President <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Message from President David D. Arnold
November 11, 2007
Dear Members of the AUC Community:
Over the past several months rumors have circulated on campus - and have also been reported in the local media - that have had no basis in fact and may seek to harm the university and its reputation as an independent, apolitical institution.
Last May newspapers reported that the university had sold parts of the Tahrir Square Campus to Israel. This was reported despite the fact that the university had stated unequivocally that it was completely untrue. More recently, rumors have surfaced that the university had fired an Egyptian professor so that it could hire an Israeli professor. Again, these rumors are completely false and seek only to harm the university.
AUC remains unswerving in its support of academic freedom and, at the same time, it remains aware of the cultural and intellectual environment in which it operates, as well as the unique security concerns we face as an institution. The university operates under both Egyptian and US law and, accordingly, the university must comply with the laws of both countries. As a result, while the university operates under US laws prohibiting discrimination, it is also governed by Egyptian laws that govern visa issuance and work restrictions.
For nearly 90 years, AUC has been committed to academic excellence and service to Egypt. As an independent, non-sectarian, apolitical educational institution, the university does not take positions on political or religious issues. AUC, therefore, will continue to resist efforts by any group to use this institution to either further its own political agenda or harm the reputation of the university.
David D. Arnold
Comment: As someone who, off and on, spent three years at AUC in the 1970s, I am acutely aware of the sensitivities that Arnold outlines in his message. And as a student of conspiracy theories, I believe that it is best to grab them by the horns and refute them. That said, there is something pandering and ignoble about Arnold's message, especially given the fact that the U.S. taxpayer picks up a part of the university's tab.
(November 11, 2007)
May 18, 2008 update: The faculty has also declared war on Israel. The faculty senate passed a resolution on May 14 calling on faculty,staff and students to "refrain from dealings with Israeli academia within the AUC environment." Sherif El Musa, one of the faculty supporters of the statement, described it as a "great gift, especially since it comes on the eve of the [sixtieth anniversary] of the creation of Israel." But Salma Mansour, a senior majoring in economics, responded differently, however: "I don't understand how we can be 'anti-normalization.' Don't we have a peace treaty with Israel?"
May 25, 2008 update: Charlie Gandelman, a study abroad student, writes a letter to the school newspaper: "Normalization is not just an intellectual advancement but also a path to aiding the Palestinian cause. Sitting in an Ivory Tower, glowering upon their Israeli neighbors, the AUC Senate is doing nothing to help alleviate Palestinian suffering. In a relationship with Israeli academia, AUC could encourage Israeli universities to offer more spots to Palestinians. AUC could also send professors to give lectures and induce sentiments of change among future Israeli leaders. Scenarios such as these would actually aid the Palestinian cause."
Feb. 27, 2009 update: Students are also stupidly anti-Zionist, reports the Caravan, AUC's student newspaper in "Heeding false rumor, some students boycott McDonald's":
Some students at The American University in Cairo are boycotting McDonald's, believing the American fast food chain gave a portion of its profits to Israel after its assault on Gaza. The protest, though, is based on a false rumor, circulated by e-mail and Facebook groups in December. Yomna Zaki, a psychology major, said she is boycotting McDonald's and Starbucks. "They've announced they were giving their profits to Israel."
"The messages about McDonald's giving its revenues to Israel until next Saturday do not originate from, and are not affiliated with, McDonald's," Tara Handy, senior manager of Corporate Media Relations for McDonald's, told AlArabiya.net. "This is completely false and appears to be nothing more than a rumor or hoax."
But Zaki said she would continue to boycott the restaurant. "I used to boycott McDonald's a long time ago and then I stopped. But after the last bombings in Gaza I resumed boycotting," she said. "I know a lot of friends who are also boycotting McDonald's." … "[Boycotting McDonald's] may not make a difference, but I feel proud of myself for doing it, that's the least I could do to help the Palestinian people," Zaki said.