CAIRO: After much anticipation, the American University in Cairo (AUC) students moved to the new $400-million 240-acre campus on Sept. 4. The move has been 10 years in the making and construction started five years ago, but, yet after one week at the New Cairo campus, students and faculty members started expressing their dismay, saying the campus wasn’t ready for their arrival.
On the first day of classes, students were impressed by the architecture of the campus as it bolstered a modern look without losing the oriental feel the Downtown campus was known for.
Once the students approached the buildings, they noticed that there was something wrong with their new impressive campus: it was still under construction.
Construction equipment and workers are still on campus and the floor is sandy and unpolished.
Heading to their first class in the new campus, students faced more surprises. It was difficult to find their classes, as there were no signs on the buildings indicating their names, and students were lost on the vast campus.
The Student Union came to the rescue, organizing daily campus tours on the first week and got its members to stand all over campus to assist and direct the lost students.
According to Raneim Hany, a student at AUC, the Student Union did all the work while the administration didn’t do anything to help the students get oriented on their first days in the new campus.
The promised technologically equipped classrooms were no where in sight; there were no projectors or laptops in classes and no wireless access to internet. In addition, many classrooms didn’t have working air conditioning system and others didn’t have desks or chairs.
Most of the bathrooms were not functioning yet.
Students also complained of the scarcity of shaded areas, which left them walking in the vast campus in the scorching heat of the blazing sun. The only shade is provided by the buildings. Aya El Araby, a Mass Communications junior, complains of the long distance between the parking area and the classes. Others said the walk from the parking lot to their classes take up to 20 minutes.
Sahir Arslan, a sophomore majoring in construction engineering, complains of the lack of greenery around the campus, and says that there is nothing around the campus but desert.
Transportation to the campus proved problematic. Some students have to drive to the bus stops since there are not enough of them and many students have missed classes because the buses just didn’t show up on the scheduled time.
A forum was conducted by the administration on Sept. 9 to address the students’ complaints. The administration justifies the move, which was seen as premature by the students, by the fact that the Library has already moved on June, so there was no way to back down at this point, when construction work appeared to be lagging behind the schedule.
The administration concluded the forum, after listening to the students’ complaints, by reminding them that “we are building a university from scratch, no matter how careful we are, problems will happen.
The administration also urged the students to “bear in mind that you are witnessing history and to have patience because the campus has great potential.
Ismail Haggag, an accounting sophomore, says that “nothing is ready and that none of the sports facilities are functioning yet, and he adds that the campus is too huge and that he wants to “go back to the old campus.
Yasmine Motawy, who teaches Rhetoric and Composition at AUC, says that she feels “confused, and she can’t find the services and the offices that she needs on campus. She says that the campus is beautiful but it will take time to get used to.
Motawy adds that the campus needs more food outlets as the only food outlets on campus are limited to Cilantro and Cinnabon.
Students asked the administration to open a cafeteria to sell basic goods like water and coffee at reasonable prices since they can’t afford to buy from Cilantro and Cinnabon every day.
Nabil Mohamed, the vice president of The International Student Leadership Conference, one of the oldest student conferences on campus, says that student activities are negatively influenced by the move.
In addition to the “primitive tour students were given, the catering sponsors, which are considered major source of funding for student activities, are discouraged from sponsoring AUC activities because of the difficult terms forced by the administration. He also complains of the fact that the clubs and conferences don’t have offices yet, something students were promised to find in the new campus.
Logistics aside, female students are complaining of sexual harassment on campus, blaming constant presence of workers for it. The problem is aggravated by the fact that many parts of the campus are still unfinished and deserted. Many incidents have been reported to Dr Ashraf El Fekky, the Vice President of the University, who advised the students to take pictures of the harassers in order to file complaints to their respective companies and get them fired.
Injy Atallah, the Public Relations chair person in the Student Union, says that the New Campus is beautiful, but it needed one or two more semesters “to be 100 percent ready. Atallah adds that the Student Union has a suggestions box on its information desk and communicates the students’ complaints to the administration.
The facilities on campus have improved a lot in the past few weeks: Air Conditioning and data shows are now operable in most of the classes, the labs are starting to function and there are more umbrellas and chairs available in the outdoor areas.