Within its attempt to monitor and document violations of academic freedoms in Egyptian universities, AFTE released its annual report on academic freedom documenting conditions in Egyptian universities during the academic year 2009 – 2010. Issues addressed by the report include prominent academic issues, legal obstacles, academic freedom, independence of universities, academic rights and liberties, administrative corruption as well as lack of good governance.
The report addresses security intervention and harassment as well as administrative harassment of students, examples of which are the following:
– 85 students have been arrested by security forces, their detention periods ranging from 4 to 15 days. In several cases orders of detention have been issued resulting in prolonged periods of incarceration that amounted in some cases to three months.
– 161 students were summoned for interrogation by campus legal authorities, while disciplinary committees were held for 135 students, some of which concluded with dismissal, as well as denying access to the exam in one or two subjects. 119 decrees were issued by deans of faculties depriving students from sitting for exam in one or two subjects of the second term. Such decrees were issued without any interrogations or investigations, which led the students to resort to the administrative, which ruled in favor of the students and ordered the cancellation of the punitive measures.
– Security personnel, and hired thugs physically assaulted and harmed students in several faculties.
The legal section of the report addresses the legislative crisis regarding Egyptian universities which has its roots in the constitution as well as in the laws governing universities and the students’ bylaws. The report also addresses the issue of the university guard as well as problems related to the control by the central agency for public mobilization and statistics (CAPMAS) of the production of information in Egypt. The report also reviews international declarations concerned with the protection of academic freedom and independence of universities.
Furthermore the report reviews elections of a number of faculty clubs as well as student union elections. The former have witnessed a number of negative practices, obstructing freedom of organization and relying on cancellation and exclusion of unwanted candidates, a violation which was documented during the elections in 6 different universities. All six elections were won by candidates supported by the university administration. The situation was not any different for the students’ elections, which were run along the same lines, resulting in a union that represents the administration and the campus security rather than the students.
The academic year 2009-2010 witnessed also a number of random administrative decrees including transfer of associate staff members to administrative positions, denying tutorship, cancellation of a faculty altogether or its affiliation to another, or its transformation into an institutions, or cancellation of a department, irrespective of the interests of university staff or students. AFTE also documented the crisis resulting from a contract between Ain Shams University and a nonexistent foreign university with negative consequences regarding “registered” students.
As regards academic freedom of university staff, AFTE has documented interference of several authorities in academic affairs including security, religious and administrative authorities. Security interventions involve blocking appointment of staff members, blocking staff members from travel to scientific or academic conferences and keeping security records. An example of interference by a religious authority was the case raised by a priest from Assiut against a university professor accusing him of disrespect for religion.
In conclusion to its observations during the academic year 2009-2010 AFTE reiterates the need for an amendment of the students’ bylaws and the implementation of the decision of the high administrative court regarding the expulsion of security authorities from universities. AFTE also stresses the importance of introducing principles of independence and good governance in Egyptian academic life, which entails free and democratic choice of all administrative positions starting with the head of department to the provost, to ensure the right of students and faculty members to contribute to decisions and decrees that concern academic affairs.