Under the banner “The Alternative Solution” and with a daring agenda, the Take Back LAU Council student coalition launched its campaign for the annual student elections in Lebanese American University. With 8 “alternative candidates” spread on both Beirut and Byblos campuses, the coalition claims that it is high-time for the student council to start performing real tangible efforts in terms of improving student affairs.
University elections in Lebanon have been for the longest time a proxy stimulation involving young representatives of political parties and coalitions from the main political sphere. The Lebanese American University has not been any different in the past years; political parties around Lebanon start rallying their supporters and friends months before the specified date of elections on campus. In LAU, the process is usually simple, students vote based on their political affiliations, and the most popular party wins the majority of seats, seldom offering a concrete student-oriented agenda.
In 2012, however, the Take Back LAU Council was able to induce a major breakthrough by nominating candidates and even winning one seat in the council for its representative Hasan Harb. It is important to note that Harb was subject to every kind of pressure, from psychological to even physical pressure in an attempt to break him or forcibly get him to draw back from nomination. Against all odds, Harb became the president of the student council in 2012. Advocating a secular, civic culture on campus, Harb was active on many levels in terms of working on proposals for student-oriented policies and played a major role during the “Stop Tuition Fees Increase” campaign, petitioning the LAU Administration when the Tuition fees were raised in the fall 2013.
This year the student coalition returns with an even wider nomination and a bigger campaign nominating their “Alternative Candidates” on both LAU campuses.
Ramzi Habre, a Political Science/International Affairs student coordinating the “Take Back LAU Council” campaign on the Beirut campus, expresses optimism in the course of this year’s elections, hoping that the candidates will receive enough votes to get their voices heard in the council. “After last year’s accomplishment,” Habre says, “we felt empowered and motivated to carry on.” Referring to the campaign’s experience in 2012, Habre states that “the negative reactions of political parties only strengthened the campaign, this year there will be candidates on both campuses with a unified student-centered agenda.”
The spokesperson for Take Back LAU Council 2013 on Byblos Campus, Elsa Saadeh was very critical while talking about the present condition of the campaign and its role within the context of university. “I am not against political life in university, in fact I respect it”, Saade states, “However I am totally against a political life that only drains and abuses student campus life instead of enriching it. I am against a political life that spreads a culture of “I feed you so that you vote for me” or “I get you a previous so that you vote for me”.” Saade, who is a senior Political Science/International Affairs student, has been actively engaged as a student in many university extra-curricular activities LAU, from Outreach and Civic Engagement Unit, to TEDxLAU, and wide civic involvements in the Lebanese Association of Democratic Elections, Act for the disappeared, and the Lebanese Red Cross –Youth Department . “I’d rather have a campus student life which reflects itself as a better system on our country as a whole, rather than the corrupt and paralyzed Lebanese system be reflected on the reality of our campus,” Saade continues Declaring full support for change and more student-centered awareness. “Imagine if the student council were truly and completely active for the right reasons, wouldn’t the students have been able to make a bigger difference every step of the way?”
When asked about the chances of victory, Habre reflects a realistic approach. “We might not be able to win all of the seats in the council,” he said, “but our stance right now will assure all of the students who do not feel represented by political parties that there will be someone to speak in their name and work for their benefits; the Alternative candidates with alternative solutions.” Saade further addresses the LAU students in conclusion, “We always say that we need an Alternative. The alternative you asked for is now here. The responsibility of making the right choice lies in your hands now. “
-Mohamad J. Hodeib