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Women grab top student body positions at AUB.

Summary: All three of the top student positions on the American University of Beirut's University Student Faculty Committee Wednesday went to women representatives, two of them independents, in what many hailed as a historic moment for campus politics.

BEIRUT: All three of the top student positions on the American University of Beirut's University Student Faculty Committee Wednesday went to women representatives, two of them independents, in what many hailed as a historic moment for campus politics.

"Being one of the three elected women for the highest positions in the USFC is reinforcing, not only to AUB but to the Lebanese community, that the current trend in our society promotes gender equality and values women as potential leaders," said newly elected Vice President Jinane Abi Ramia, a member of the Secular Club.

"Hopefully this support for merit and competence, no matter what the gender was, would apply to political positions in the Lebanese community," she added.

Tala Kammourieh, also a Secular Club member, won the seat of treasurer, considered by some to be the most powerful seat on the council.

At AUB, like all Lebanese universities, student council elections generally mirror the national political mood, and many students have voiced disappointment at the presence of major political parties which overpower local student groups looking to focus on student concerns. The election of three women, and two of them from the secular club, was seen as a departure from the status quo and even won the backing of several political parties.

"It's an achievement on so many levels," Kammourieh said of the results.

She added that her first priority would be finding a solution to the controversy over the tuition increase, which sparked protests earlier this year.

The seat of secretary went to the Amal Movement-affiliated AUB Mission Club's Shireen Fawaz, who could not be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, the independents emerged as kingmakers in AUB student polls. Students headed to the ballot box on Nov. 5 to elect the 109-seat Student Representative Committee and the 18 student representatives to the USFC.

The USFC then elects three of the five executive seats. They will be tasked with overseeing and negotiating student affairs with the USFC and AUB President Peter Dorman.

"The first issue will be to reshuffle AUB's financial allocations and to finally get serious on the tuition fee increase," said Kammourieh, who promised to distribute a campus-wide survey to see how the students truly feel about paying more. Financial aid will be "another primary issue," she vowed.

As it currently stands, AUB's bylaws allocate 60 percent of its funds to student activities, 30 percent for faculty proposals, and 10 percent for individual proposals.

"We want to take a look at archived proposals and see where the main demands are," Kammourieh added, "a lot of teachers complain about not getting enough funds for research and we think by focusing less on student activities AUB can conduct more research."

For her part, Abi Ramia said she took seriously her role as a representative of "every single student at AUB."

"I was an AUB student for six years and I faced the some problems any student would face during this journey; it's time for me to speak up [on] these challenges and address them," she said.

"My priorities for this year would be to promote transparency and accountability of the AUB administration. We [the students] are the biggest stakeholder in AUB."

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Nov 28, 2013
Words:585
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