Sally Abou Melhem, Office of Communications, firstname.lastname@example.org
The university commits to help students complete their education despite the current situation
AUB celebrated, today, the 153rd anniversary of its founding with the annual Founders Day ceremony held at Assembly Hall in the presence of members of the Board of Trustees, AUB administration, faculty, students, and the AUB community. The celebration is an old tradition of paying tribute to AUB's founders, and a reiteration of AUB's commitment to the values instilled by them since December 3, 1866. Traditionally, a procession of academic faculty and an annual student essay contest are part of the event, however, due to the unusual current circumstances, the ceremony consisted of a speech by Dr. Fadlo Khuri, AUB president.
Khuri began by describing the circumstances under which the 153 years since AUB was founded have delivered a series of significant challenges to date, including the current political and economic crisis as the most recent. “It is not for AUB to play a political role in this uprising but simply to continue to do what it has done over a century and a half: to act as a beacon of hope and as a bastion of liberal values." And as Khuri had previously mentioned in the media, he emphasized that “AUB's role as a university is to be an essential incubator for a better kind of leader in the Arab world, and we shall keep striving to perform that role as we have always done, without fear or favor."
The president then reminded the audience of his pledge on AUB's Opening Day earlier this year, that as Lebanon and the region move into a period of increased instability AUB is committed, as it has always been, to helping all of its students complete a world-class, fully supported education to the best of its abilities. Khuri highlighted that this commitment has not changed, even if the circumstances under which it shall be delivered have.
Khuri spoke about the economic situation in Lebanon and how it may possibly affect its population in drastic ways that can affect their basic requirements for life. “We are taking steps to protect and secure our community from the impact of further possible deterioration of the economy, including a devaluation of the lira." He mentioned an emergency fund that will be created with the support of the university's Board of Trustees to help alleviate the impact of the crisis on AUB's community, starting with its most vulnerable members. “Most of all, helping the most vulnerable means our students," he said. “Our commitment is that we shall do everything in our power to ensure that all our enrolled students are able to complete their education without dropping out for financial, psychological, or other reasons related to the current situation."
He added that there is a plan to introduce a smart tuition system to enable undergraduate students currently receiving financial aid from AUB, who are living in Lebanon, and whose parents earn their salaries in Lebanese lira, to continue to pay tuition in lira at or near the base exchange rate of 1,515 Lebanese lira to the dollar in the event of a devaluation, in order to alleviate its impact. Any other family which falls into financial difficulty can apply for support through the financial aid program. “We do not know how long we will be able to sustain this policy, but it will be a significant boost for families that have budgeted for a particular sum for tuition and find themselves falling short through no fault of their own." Khuri also asked families in Lebanon and outside that are able to continue paying from their reserves of dollars or in Lebanese lira at the new rate to “not ask for support for convenience that others need from necessity." Adding that if they are genuinely deserving they will not be left by the wayside.
Khuri also addressed other issues and challenges the university is, and might be facing such as banks imposing capital controls and not honoring promises to allow transfer of funds to pay salaries or tuition, explaining how they are currently dealt with, and what the plan is in case of further complications.
“Lebanon is more prone to sudden tectonic changes, as we are seeing today, but our role at AUB is to keep delivering continuity, excellence, and the vision of a better tomorrow that all Lebanese, and all Arabs, can and should embrace to pass through our current troubles and build a more abundant future," Khuri said. “We shall be judged by the world on how we weather this Lebanese crisis, and whether we emerge as a stronger, better institution, or as a battered and bruised one. If past experience is anything to go by, we could end up bruised, but stronger, battered, but better."
The president concluded, “I would like to remind us not to turn inwards on our Lebanese problems and to be preoccupied by Lebanese solutions to the exclusion of other challenges." He also reminded the audience that this country is still home to the greatest number of refugees per capita of population in the world, highlighting that AUB continues to lend its service to them in education, healthcare, and helping empower their communities. He then mentioned that one-in-four students at AUB are international, including a significant number of Arab and African students on scholarship programs.
For the English and Arabic versions of the full speech, follow these links: