American Univesity of Beirut

Dear friends and colleagues in the AUB community,

I have focused this edition of President’s Perspective on gender discrimination and particularly our efforts to redress the imbalance persisting between the experiences of women and men in our community. Yes, AUB has long been at the vanguard of challenging unfair practices towards women and their exclusion from aspects of the society—but that should never mean we can sit back and stop finding ways to challenge and disrupt existing societal norms that treat one gender differently to the other.

Distinguished taskforce for women

2.PNG On December 2, 2015, I had the privilege to convene a committee of diverse, highly insightful and accomplished faculty, led by two outstanding women, Dr. Howayda AlHarithy and Dr. Huda Zurayk, to study paths for success and prominence at AUB, specifically for women faculty. We called it the Taskforce on the Lives and Careers of Women Faculty at AUB and it has come back with detailed findings, which will be widely presented in the near future. These data show that, while we have made progress, we still have some way to go with the representation of women and men in different faculty ranks, promotion rates, salaries, work satisfaction, work/life balance, child-care responsibilities and the impact of AUB policies. The research reveals realities, even to those who consider ourselves to be progressive, that will need to be addressed: In Lebanon, women are expected to be thriving professionals, perfect child raisers, professional entertainers, to care for their parents and their spouses’, and much more besides— basically, not to sleep! So we will look societally at how we can better support our extraordinary women faculty, and—although the data are relevant to all—I shall soon be announcing further steps with a view to improving the lives, mental health, and career opportunities for female and male students and staff. 
These are very important initiatives to my mind. Equality is not just about fairness and transparency, important though they are. We also want to be competitive in the best sense of the word. Women comprise between 53% and 55% of the population, so it makes sense to have at least that proportion of the most outstanding women in leadership positions. This university was the first to welcome women into its student body, onto its faculty, and to give them senior leadership roles in our staff—AUB has had three associate provosts, three female deans, and many chairs. But clearly we need to push harder to obliterate the glass ceiling. I hope, once my term of service is done, that women will be among the leading competitors for my job. And it’s certainly not just about recruitment practices: Without prejudging the taskforce recommendations, there is clearly a need for nearby, AUB-sponsored child-minding options, which if converted to an early learning center could bring together the children of our leading women faculty and staff with those of less privileged families. Now that would be transformative: To see these kids growing up together, feeling empowered and their horizons broadened during these crucial developmental years! 

Title IX developments 


One of AUB’s institutional commitments is to ensure a safe and non-discriminatory learning and working environment, which is mandated by our policy documents and by Title IX of the 1972 US Education Amendments, which is a gender equity law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and gender in all US federally-funded educational programs and activities. I am pleased to announce the establishment of an online reporting and incident management system through an agreement with EthicsPoint—which is a major provider of compliance solutions for universities in the US. Underreporting is a serious challenge to addressing unethical behavior and a key strategy in response to these issues is to offer multiple and easily accessible channels for reporting. We will pilot the use of EthicsPoint for incidents related to discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment, as a complement to the existing reporting options. Faculty, managerial staff, and supervisors are still obligated to report all incidents of suspected discrimination or harassment to my office through AUB’s Title IX officer, Ms. Trudi Hodges. 

Efforts to increase student awareness are focused on broadening knowledge of rights and resources, creating greater confidence in reporting processes, and improving the overall climate for diversity on campus. Online Title IX resources have been updated, a student-centered “Get Help” page is now published, and Title IX information is directly accessible from “AUB at a Glance” on AUB Mobile—all in response to student requests. We have launched a 15-member Title IX student advisory group dedicated to awareness, advocacy, and action programming, as it relates to discrimination and harassment. Initial steps have also been taken to implement a deputy Title IX officer structure, extending and integrating our work against discrimination and harassment into the units and the faculties—where the most important work of the university takes place. Clearly we have made progress at AUB, but we also have a way to go, as was evidenced recently when we had some unacceptable comments even from some of the youngest members of our community about women, following an unsavory incident that happened on campus and in social media. My preference-- whether related to conduct prohibited by Title IX or other statutes—is to start down the path of education and if that does not have the desired effect then certainly I'm not shy about using corrective action. Let’s be absolutely clear: Making someone feel uncomfortable is not acceptable, propositioning them if you happen to work or study together, is wrong. Don’t make unwanted comments about people's appearance or their clothing, or approach them in any way that might make them uncomfortable. And if you are subject to such behavior, report it. If it feels wrong, it generally is wrong. Please report it to our Title IX officer, Ms. Trudi Hodges, or you can go to your dean who is trained to respond correctly. 

Women in Data Science 


I have spoken before of AUB’s special talent for holding superlative events that cut across many boundaries in pursuit of knowledge and excellence. Friday, February 3, 2017 saw no fewer than three world-class gatherings, marred perhaps only by my hyperpneic arrival as I hurried between upper and lower campus to give one keynote and two welcome addresses. Social Justice in the Arab World since 2010 was hosted by the Issam Fares Institute and the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University; the Regional Integrative Health Forum: Holistic Remedies meet Modern Day Medicine took place under the auspices of the Nature Conservation Center and the Health and Wellness Center; and the Olayan Business School hosted the AUB-Stanford Women in Data Science (WiDS) conference. All three merit a full write-up, but I will focus on WiDS in the interests of space. 

Spearheaded by the formidable duo of Dr. Lama Moussawi-Haidar and Mrs. Fida Kanaan Kharrat, WiDS was a prime example of AUB’s transformative mission in action. In an auditorium packed with young people whose lives and careers stretch ahead of them, the conference sought to open their eyes to the exciting developments and possibilities of data science, as well as showcasing outstanding women’s talents on a global stage. This will ensure the female majority of our planet sees data science as a field for them, even in—or especially in—the Arab world. Big data will change the world—we know this and AUB needs to be at the forefront of this fourth industrial revolution. Moreover, both women and the people of the Global South need to be fully represented in 4IR, to give everyone a better chance to be advantaged, not the privileged, northern, male, white elite, as was the case with its three revolutionary predecessors. 

Best regards, 

Fadlo R. Khuri, MD 

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