Dear friends and colleagues of the AUB community,
On Friday, April 8, 2022, in the presence of the
president of Cyprus, the
mayor of Pafos,
chair of the university's International Advisory Council, US assistant secretary of state, AUB trustees,
leaders, and friends, the American University of Beirut signed an agreement with the Municipality of Pafos, Cyprus to
launch its first ever twin campus abroad.
The establishment of campuses outside Lebanon is a central part of the university strategic vision,
VITAL 2030, first developed in 2017, and with the input of more than 150 diverse stakeholders, approved by the
Board of Trustees in June 2020. VITAL strengthens our already deep roots in Lebanon, while allowing us to attract students, faculty, and staff who are eager to join the AUB community but reluctant because of the current instability in the country.
We need to place this decision in greater context, however, and discuss the fundamental reasoning behind the undertaking to expand during a period when Lebanon is experiencing arguably its most profound economic crisis over the last two centuries. As I said in my address at the signing, it is important to ask “why?" Why Pafos, and why now?
We need to place this decision in greater context … It is important to ask “why?” Why Pafos, and why now? ”
By building a new state-of-the-art campus with three faculties initially allowing for more than 2000 students within the next 10 to 12 years, we promote the interchange of students, faculty, and staff that deepens our ties throughout the eastern Mediterranean region. Our programs in the humanities, engineering, business, and the sciences will benefit from collaboration with European and Mediterranean partners. In partnering with the ancient Mediterranean city of Pafos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 7000 years of history, we link two historic and habitable cities, Beirut and Pafos, as the first step in expanding our service to the region.
As for the financing, the funding sources are savings from already completed capital projects over the last six years—designated exclusively for capital projects—as well as additional and anticipated gifts to this effort. These funds do not flow from operating revenues generated by tuition and medical fees. Rather they are savings realized from scrupulous financial management in our recent past in order to ascertain a better and more impactful future.
In partnering with the ancient Mediterranean city … we link two historic and habitable cities, Beirut and Pafos, as the first step in expanding our service to the region.”
It was Aristotle who once stated: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” In this case, I speak of a habit of excellence that is even more precious in these circumstances where so much good needs to be done to help lift a troubled and demoralized post-pandemic region.
This points to a deeper reason for the momentous decision of expanding AUB’s footprint at this time in history. Every member of our community who has walked through our hallowed Main Gate has been struck by the words inscribed there, parsed from John 10:10 in the New Testament, “That they may have life and have it more abundantly.” Legions of AUB-ites have found ways to work this mantra into their expressions, arguments, and daily lives. By every measure, the university has been successful in achieving this for its graduates and for members of its community. Our graduates are accepted into the finest graduate and professional schools and into the best and most prestigious medical residencies in the world. They have led ministries, governments, and nations in more than 40 countries. They have created companies and wealth, with more of our alumni considered high net worth individuals than those of all but 17 universities globally.
Therefore, at the level of the individual, AUB has indeed ensured that many “have life and have it more abundantly." But what about the societies we serve? Having been arguably the most prestigious university of the Global South for decades, and unquestionably for the MENA region, can we say that we have fulfilled our mission for these societies, where inequality, disparity, and injustice is at least as pervasive as it was five decades ago? And are we willing to accept the limits of our mission being assessed exclusively at the level of the individual?
Our answer must be no. We must not be constrained in fulfilling our mission by geography, current events, or socioeconomic obstacles, and downsize our greater responsibilities to our communities in a time when they need us the most. And those communities have traditionally been all over the Mediterranean, North African, and Arab regions, with a substantial expansion over the last six years into sub-Saharan Africa, Central Europe, Central Asia and other critical, challenged nations of the Global South. In academia, we have enhanced the individual, but I argue that “they" in the quote from John 10:10 must refer to societies. We need more inclusive societies, where an injury to the most vulnerable, the most unfortunate, is an injury to the most powerful. That is what we seek to do with the Pafos campus.
We need more inclusive societies, where an injury to the most vulnerable, the most unfortunate, is an injury to the most powerful. That is what we seek to do with the Pafos campus.”
We live in challenging times, and we must all step up to the task of helping to build a better world together. As the late Robert Kennedy said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events." He envisioned the creation of a better world as the result of “numberless diverse acts of courage and belief," as each one of us stands up for an ideal, or for others, or against injustice. These “tiny ripple[s] of hope… build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance," in Kennedy's words.
At one of our board meetings, Trustee
Abdulsalam Haykal called the decision to open the new campus one of the three most important in the history of the university, including the initial launch of the campus and the decision to continue with essential service to society by the
university and its
medical center throughout the Lebanese Civil War.
The American University of Beirut has formed a habit of excellence, as Aristotle posited, in order to create ripples of hope for a better world. Now and forever, that must be the way we at AUB interpret John 10:10.
The American University of Beirut has formed a habit of excellence, as Aristotle posited, in order to create ripples of hope for a better world.”
Fadlo R. Khuri, MD