In a press conference held at the Egyptian Current party headquarters on Tuesday, a group of students representing 18 political movements and parties denounced the actions of the Egyptian Student Union.
In a statement the student groups announced that they refuse the governing bylaws drafted by the union. They also announced a campaign entitled “your bylaws … your constitution,” which shall involve workshops and awareness campaigns to help draft alternative bylaws.
Members of the student groupst made clear their disappointment with the union, and refused to recognise its legitimacy. However they agreed to cooperate with the union for the purpose of producing representative governing bylaws.
“The union’s performance is quite arrogant,” said Osama Ahmed, representative of the Revolutionary Socialist students. “Its 42 members believe that they represent all Egyptian students.”
The Egyptian Student Union met twice with the disaffected students in talks moderated by Dr Laila Soueif, a member of the March 9 university movement, but the talks served only to widen the rift between them.
“Our aim is to create workshops for drafting bylaws, which would allow all students to take part in the drafting process,” said Mustafa Foad, Dostour party student representative. “Then, to save time and costs, we suggest holding a referendum on controversial articles only.”
Soueif suggested that a general assembly involving all college secretary generals and their deputies be formed to oversee the drafting process; an assembly of 480 members.
“Although, they initially agreed to our suggestions, we were surprised to find the union announcing that they’re almost done with drafting the bylaws and that they don’t intend to put it up to a referendum, as long as it is approved by the Minister of Higher Education.” Foad said.
In turn, president of the Egyptian Student Union Ahmed Omar told the Daily News Egypt that a referendum over the proposed draft shall be held.
“We haven’t received from the student groups a set mechanism about the referendum,” Omar said, adding that the union still welcomes any proposed mechanism. “If they don’t come up with one until the time scheduled for adopting the new bylaws, early October, the union shall devise its own mechanism and hold the referendum accordingly.”
Omar refused the notion of putting only the controversial articles up for a referendum, saying that it would be “legally wrong” to do so and that a full referendum over the entire draft must be held.
“All the students refuse two things; staying another year with the old bylaws drafted by State Security during Mubarak’s reign, and delaying the Student Union elections,” Omar said, adding that many student groups did not take part in today’s conference, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Noor party, Justice party and April 6 Ahmad Maher front.
“Each faction should be aware of its true weight,” Omar said.
The 18 movements against the union include Al-Dostour party, April 6 movement Democratic Front, the Revolutionary Socialists, the Egyptian Current party, Al-Wasat party, and the Egyptian Social Democratic party.
“We gain our legitimacy from the students,” Omar added, mentioning that the union has held several workshops for drafting the bylaws in the past two years.
According to Foad, the union held only “mock” workshops, announcing their dates only hours in advance, preventing students from taking part.
Soeif said that she would try her best to resolve the conflict during a meeting scheduled to be held between the student front and the union on Thursday.
“The news I’m hearing today is making it hard for me to be optimistic,” Soeif told the Daily News Egypt, “yet I remain hopeful that during Thursday’s meeting, we might put an end to the conflict.”
The Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian Student Union was elected at the end of the 2012 academic year through student elections which occurred in 12 universities nationwide. Foad suggests that the union lacks legitimacy, since the seven universities not dominated by the Brotherhood boycotted the elections.