CAIRO: Student Unions of 20 public universities protested Tuesday in support of professors’ call for academic independence.
University professors are pushing for the implementation of a government promise to hold elections for university leaderships. The decision can’t be implemented without the removal or the resignation of current deans, appointed under the Mubarak regime.
“We are free students … The administration has lost legitimacy,” chanted the members of the Student Union at Cairo University.
They also chanted in favor of allowing the safe practice of politics and activism on campus.
Organizers of the protest said it could turn into a sit-in with the participation of the professors if their demands weren’t met by Sept. 15. Another round of demonstrations is planned for Thursday.
Last month, the president of Cairo University Hossam Kamel and presidents of Helwan, Fayoum and Al-Wadi Al-Gadeed Universities resigned before the end of their term. However, six other university presidents refused to resign, while eight stepped down because their legal term had ended, giving way to elections.
The Minister of Higher Education Moataz Khorshid said in press statements that he will accept the resignations and that he does not have the authority to dismiss any university president.
“Moataz Khorshid, the minister of higher education, said that he sent the resignations to SCAF, while SCAF’s official responsible for education said he never received the … resignations, so it is quiet vague,” said Mohamed Mahmoud, the secretary-general of Cairo University Student Union, which called for Tuesday’s protest.
"We are not talking about individuals; we don’t mind if the current deans are the universities leaders if they were elected by the professors," said Asser Shaaban, SU member at Ain Shams University.
The Ain Shams protest was attended by about 200-300 students and professors.
Some professors affiliated with the March 9 Movement, which calls for the independence of university education, attended the demonstration in front of Cairo University’s dome.
“We have to work along side each other to be able to reach our demands; this is why I am here in solidarity with the students’ demonstrations,” said professor Somaya El-Saadany, member of the March 9 Movement.
After the Supreme Council for the Universities and the SCAF failed to reach an agreement with university professors two days ago, around 4,000 professors marched to the Ministry of Higher Education and announced their strike, which would start on the first day of the new term.
Students and professors demonstrated earlier in mid-March calling on SCAF to dismiss certain faculty members and deans that were affiliated with former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
"We have taken a decision that no new academic term will start before the current leadership is changed," said Mohamed Medhat, president of the Student Union in Alexandria and member of the Egypt’s Student Union.
“We didn’t have a revolution to stay with the same leadership; we want a new revolutionary one."
Cairo University SU member Soha Mamdouh called for changing the proposed election system, saying it gives the current leadership powers to organize the supervising committees.
The students also demanded the removal of fees, improving the educational system, subsidizing the books, performing free and transparent student union elections, and making the educational institutes independent of any military or security interventions.
"We have our student union bylaw that we are still finishing up. Once it’s done we will make a press conference and announce it," Medhat said.
"On Thursday all universities will protest at the Supreme Council for the Universities and if our demands are not met we will start a sit in," he added.