Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles


September 12, 2008

Gem or Coprolite?

Filed under: What the...? — Kaddee @ 4:19 pm

UNCHARACTERISTICALLY PESSIMISTIC RANT TO FOLLOW – READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

I am just past mid-week of the inaugural semester at AUC’s “Gem in the Desert” New Campus.  According to the university website, the New Campus is:

Built at a total cost of $400 million and spanning 260 acres, the new campus provides a world-class academic environment to the university community and offers state-of-the-art resources such as modern classrooms, lab and studios, and lecture halls to support the latest teaching methods, curricula and educational technologies.

I do not dispute the cost or size of the campus – however I must take umbrage at the rest of the description.  Especially as it indicates a fait accompli.

Upon arrival at the “world-class academic environment” on the first day of classes (7Sept08), I entered my “state-of-the-art” science department to find a construction zone.  Construction workers milled about ineffectually, wearing hardhats and safety vests.  The halls were filled with garbage, food left-overs from the workers and globs of plaster and dust.  Laboratories had no electricity or insufficient numbers of plugs or bare wires at junction boxes, no equipment in place, and were stacked waist-deep in boxes and construction materials.  The science departments have been asked to “postpone” teaching our laboratories until after the Eid – October 6th.

Is this how a “World-Class University” functions?

The lecture halls, touted to “support the latest teaching methods”, range from having no computers, projectors, or chairs for the students or professors to being fully technology ready.  Of the 140 “technology equipped, SMART classrooms” that were planned, 48 of them are functional for the first week of classes.  This is one of the “success stories” of the move, however I must point out that such a success rate is not a “passing grade” in most university classes.

If I just focus on “me and my world” – I have no office space and no functional lab.  I have been assigned a room, but it is still under construction, there is no electricity, no computer, no wireless access, no phone, no air conditioning, and the door does not lock.  All of my teaching and personal items that would normally be in an office are in boxes.  Said boxes are stacked in one of the non-functional labs, however I cannot access any of my belongings.

So – I am squatting in a friend’s office.  She has a door that locks, a computer and furniture.  Still no A/C, but I no longer have to carry my laptop with me everywhere I go.

In the long run (read 1 to 2 years from now), this campus will be gorgeous.  It usually takes the better part of a year to work out the “kinks” of any new construction.  The biggest problem for this campus is that we are on a site that IS NOT READY FOR USE YET.  The university is trying to function on a campus whose basic academic facilities and infrastructure are only partially completed.

Insisting on beginning this academic year with the new campus in it’s current state was ill-conceived and ill-advised.  The construction/moving schedule had already slipped by 2 YEARS, another semester would have been a wiser move than insisting that students and faculty “make it work” on a new campus that is only partially done.  But alas – we are there.  Administration is telling us to “do the best we can under the circumstances”.  I have to ask, “How do I teach university-level science classes without laboratories and basic facilities?”

3 Comments

  1. Well said! But i’m not quite sure how you *really* feel about the new campus. LOL

    It was tres awesome finally meeting you and Jack last night! We should definitely have drinks and try to suss out your real feelings about the state of the campus. :p

    Comment by Typ0 — September 12, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  2. I *tried* to be circumspect and non-biased. I guess it worked.
    LOL

    Comment by Kaddee — September 12, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  3. Well, you are in good company from what I hear about the British International School’s move from Zamalek to the new campus in Beverly Hills. Same situation. Good luck.

    Comment by Maryanne Stroud — September 13, 2008 @ 10:09 pm

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