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Jan 11, 2011

AUI-S: One Long Year of backward-looking

by Bahman Abdulrahman
This post, however, is long in outward; it is the reflection of one year at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. Although, it may contain lethal truth that the university intensively tries to cover them, I hope this will help the student’s pursuit of boarding their horizons. Some of the events may seem old, yet I believe, they have played a huge role in shaping the present policies. Therefore, dear readers, I hope you understand the order of the events and I am sure most of you are familiar with them, though, they were not open to be commented on by the students.

On the Policy of Two Gates  

 The first thing I noticed at AUI-S was the hilarious security of the university. I could not understand why it was so difficult for a university to control the safety of few hundred students while it could get help benevolently from the U.S. embassy at any time, as we saw in Natali’s case. I have published an article on this issue on Student Eye; you can start this journey by reading this post by following this link: http://auisstudent.blogspot.com/2010/10/one-policy-of-two-gates.html


The illusion and the theory of the cement walls
Perhaps, the second lamentable scenery I noticed was the “university campus”. I believe we are all on the same mind, and we believe it is the students’ right to study in a proper educational atmosphere. Though, I understand it’s somehow hard to erect few floor buildings, the present campus doesn’t go along with the tittle of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. As soon as this blog was launched I published an article on the AU-S campus, you can read the complete story by following this link: http://auisstudent.blogspot.com/2010/10/illusion-and-theory-of-cement-walls.html
First, the homemade threatening letter! And the AmericanUI-S disparaging steps.
I was flabbergasted when they said “She found a threatening letter at her office door.” It was a moment that I lost the ability to think. I couldn’t help what might have had happened. I didn’t know how far it might go, yet I admit what I saw exceeds all logical expectations.
Dr. Denise Natali
Dr. Denise Natali, the former academic dean of students, shockingly opened a letter, as I was told. She was shocked to see her daughter’s hair a bullet, preferably an Ak47 projectile. Please dear readers, modestly, I don’t mean intimidation or profanity, but that is how the event was portrayed. Perhaps, it is more like a Hollywood movie; I believe it is the way that Michael Moore would prefer.
Who came in? Who investigated? How my fellow cattle of students were investigated? The university of American Iraq- Sulaimani, the first liberal arts institute in the post war Iraq starts investigating students. Judiciously, the university held no one guilty, but all the students queued to be decriminalized. I cannot stop thinking about the accident, but how other students gave in? Did she need to be threatened?  Why is this happened?
It is and was hard to find the theater(s), as I believe it doesn’t have a realistic base. It will be the most discreditable and irremovable stain on the university’s “nobility”. How on earth a university, that claimed the priority of freedom and liberality, get into such a filthy game. Who, or on what base does a university HEIR a special investigator from the U.S. embassy? What was other none university linked offices doing in the investigation sessions?
Momentarily, the university halts its entire outside links, except for some VIPs. I wanted to go to the university to the admission to get my ID back, but I was told by the guards “we will let no one enter the university; it’s an order from Dr. Aso.” Still I’m shocked, is it unintelligible quest or I lack solid understanding?
I, from my very strict viewpoints disapprove violence of any kind. Denise, as a university figure, should have been treated with respect, but her personal life must not detract the university. Does this worth militarizing the university, or criminalizing the knowledge seeking students? The university should learn for its missteps and publicly and reservedly apologize. Degrading students, in the way AmericanUI-S did, was tolerated due to the students’ foolhardiness. How students endorse such a policy and few months later things go back normal and Denies started to work once again. Was the predator amongst the students? Could the university uncover slayer (s) through this policy. Still, I further ask, why didn’t the university investigate its American faces? Couldn’t they be the source?
Mr. Investors: Give AUI-S money, it will give you “It’s Freedom”
The university and conscious students agree on one fundamental principal “freedom”. In other words, freedom by the side of reason, toleration, justice and presence of educated individuals is a corner stone for both liberal ideology and liberal arts education system. Recently, this topic sparks impassioned debate amongst students and the American university staff. Meanwhile, freedom is a needed component for invention, not luxury. Once again, if the university could have unrestricted freedom, then establishing AUI-S can be future source of inventions. However, obtaining freedom is not unfeasible quest; not having it is the chain that crippled the university. The case is that the university’s freedom is lost in the shadow of founders’ monopoly. Directly or indirectly the university is monopolized by its founders, which I’m sure readers can recognize them one by one. It’s a real case, the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani, “the first private liberal arts university in Iraq” is in a real need of proving its liberty. AUI-S, like other Iraqi universities, but in a different manner, needs freedom not fashionable buildings or huge bank accounts.
I would like to give my first example so as to elucidate my claim.  Again, Dr. Barham the head of university’s Council of Trustees, who is also the university’s number one funder. Mr. Barham’s office at AUI-S, in a way or another, is a threat to the university’s independence. It endangers the liberty of the university, ironically if it does not thus far. I will give a small tip to the readers to think about and see to what extend the university is influenced by Mr. Barham’s correspondent. I rather prefer to ask, how does this office acted in regard to the Natali’s threatening letter? Whose matter was that?
It, at least for me, shows one fatal truth which is that the university cannot act by itself and stand on what it has built. In case, if founders care about the students that much, there help can be delivered through other means.
Meanwhile, it’s important to encompass that the university’s needs should not become its bondage point. The University may need money therefore it has to find other ways to get it. AmericanUI-S failed to attract investors before, due to its wrong pursuit policies. Perhaps, it’s not the right time to touch this topic, yet many may be afraid to talk about the effects of this bitter reality. But I’m afraid the day they comprehend, it will be too late. Hence, I hope that AUI-S considers this issue seriously, and investors must understand the boundaries of the university.
On The culture of Plagiarism
October9, 2010 classroom 26 hosted the 2010-11 academic year orientation meeting. In a very simple and deplorable manner the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani announced the beginning of its fourth academic year. Like the old days of our high school years, headmasters were giving speeches and explaining their wavering polices every year, AUI-S faculty staff heads gave decorated speeches. I remember whenever we had a meeting with our school staff, students were disturbing speakers and they were good in making noise. One or all instructors were endeavoring to calm students down in the very same way the AUI-S distinguished departments’ executives were doing.
James Harrigan
Much was said yet the path remains unclear. All departments: the student affairs, the office of the registrar and so forth except the inner department of students gave speeches. Inner department of students, in my mind, is the students’ ability of rejecting obligatory inputs. Yet all was said couldn’t be totally true and perhaps it’s from a skeptical perspective.
 The dean of the student affairs, Mr. James Harrigan was amongst the speakers. His hidden comment for a while and clarified afterwards was lethal. He bravely and simply labeled and generalized the few plagiarism cases at AmericanUI-S and defined them as a culture. “We are here to change this culture, and AUI-S is established to change this culture.” Mr. Harrigan proudly stated.  The offence was welcomed and cherished. Thus far, my limited knowledge impeded me from understanding this culture. I don’t know since when plagiarism became a culture? Or even more stupidly, is there any culture with this title?            
I wonder if one could find an academic institution with zero cheating or plagiarism. Yet, on another hand, no one could label a university of having a root or a culture of plagiarism. Perhaps, though one reason of plagiarism is the incapability of students, students are not the only elite that plagiarize in universities. Those professors and lecturers who fail in establishing their own views are constantly plagiarizing through making cloudy statements based on others’ and not wanting to mention their authors. Ironically, Mr. Harrigan himself might be one of those.

The absent of a logical answer from the Dean while a student asked him indicated the falseness of his claim. Plagiarism is not as it has never been part of any culture. While plagiarism is not accepted in academia, we all reached this line even before turning and clothing it as a culture. Or if what was claimed is true, why AUI-S didn’t address this issue before becoming a “Culture”? Does the university have to review everything to track down plagiarizers, as it’s a culture and members of this custom have faith in what they do?

Will AmericanUI-S, the corrector, tackle evaporating this culture with insults? Or there are commonsensical ways. Conversely, Mr. Dean approached the question erroneously, and the university is exaggerating in this regard. Ironically, wouldn’t be great to bootleg while lethargic instructors will never figure it out and while they are bootlegging along with the students. If the pro-claim are into fortifying there fickle stand, they must understand that over the past three years they were able address tiny percentage of the plagiarized papers. Apparently, it’s the most lethal truth for AUI-S to admit. Therefore, this insult is either a clear sense of dissatisfaction, or a practical failure of the student affairs’ office, or the university as whole.
             
The financial Aid Program: Terrific On Papers but Terrible In Practice.
The only liberal arts institution in Iraq, the source of inspiration and a chance for those who deserve it, these are some poetic elements of the given definitions of AUI-S. Let’s assume that these are accurate with bearing in mind that none of these have ever been carefully assessed or reviewed, and concentrate on the financial aid package. While financial aids manifested in different forms, Iraqis are well familiar with. The AUI-S Finance Department gave a moderate meaning to the term that soon infiltrated into the minds of some Iraqi students. Prior political and religious party agencies altered to a few numbered papers to start a march toward a brighter future. Though, this all, may seem as a good sign of a new Iraqi era, the overlapping faults waken the stride.
The American University of Iraq- Sulaimani as well as many other universities, individuals, and private colleges offer limited financial aid, which to an extend facilitate the rally for some needy students. Seemingly, the idea on white papers appears to be constructive, yet in practical reality, it is inapplicable or lacks much.
As all can see constant allegations, AUI-S being considered as a place only for rich lean kids as the amount of money required by the university is unthinkably unaffordable for most. Students may further reject comparing AUI-S with the American universities elsewhere due to money, quality and services offered.  Therefore the Financial Aid Program faces most of the disparaging remarks.
Although, Students deserve much better opportunities, the road is paved with obstacles. Now, a merit pro-student financial aid system by AUI-S can fill the absence of the government and bankers’ absence in this respect. It’s time to evaluate the financial aid of your (students) university, and let’s start with a mathematical equation.
Perhaps it’s worthy to remind yourselves that the Financial Aid Committee pays for the indigent students no more than 70percent or $7000.Which in a more explicable language means along the $3000 paid by the students, the university get the $7000 (given to the students by the university) from the financiers or more precisely from the Board of Trustees. Be aware and keep in mind that you have never studied free.  If AUI-S out of its more than 400 and some students have has only one hundred students who get benefit from the university’s financial program, it will cost the university approximately $700,000, which is sarcastically over eighty times less than the $60 million that Texas A&M University wanted to cut from the budget spent on toilet papers. Meanwhile, the rest 300 or none financially helped students pay the university more than $3000, 000 annually.
Conversely, as it is obvious, AUI-S failed to fully help students with its financial aid program due to some known covered reasons; the program becomes a source of humiliation. Nearly all financial aid students, a new name given to those who study on the financial aid offered by AUI-S, are playing with fire. On one hand, the aid is not unwavering, unfortunately the aid as cattle market habitually explode. Therefore, the financially competent students of one semester may normally be the expelled of another, because of not being able to pay the doubled fees. Meanwhile, on the other side, the aid in most cases is unfairly placed. Like everywhere, around AUI-S, most of those who shouldn’t be assisted get most of the aid while needy students coerced to withdraw. Furthermore, the program created a class of entitled “Financial aid students” who in appearance may appear fairly like others yet socially are under-valued. The program generated a wide sense of disrespectfulness, as financially aided students must both gain higher degrees and bear the degrading look of the rich class and the university staff.  Moreover, the departments through its “work-study” program shove financially assisted students abide the staff mistreatments. Thus, The University through its lacking logical based policies normalized and moralized this atmosphere amongst students and the staff.         
Logically, readers, you should wary and express your questions. I want to ask, if AUI-S in the first fourth years of its march couldn’t succeed in forming a workable financial frame work, how it can prolong its promises?  And most importantly, how students can attach their dreams to AUI-S while money is the blood vessel of the university?  Thus, AUI-S must tolerate reviewing its financial aid program or may even alter it to more practical once.
I’m a “financially aided” student. Perhaps, like many others, I am not sure if I will be able to pay the upcoming semesters or not, yet who cares. The only frustrating answer the university had until now was that, “this is the best we can do.” This never meets the need of the students and the vision of the future university expansion. What shall we do? What should the oblivious and slothful AmericanUI-S decision makers do? Is there a method that can serve both the AmericanUI-S money makers and the students? If the AmericanUI-S could listen, I can give a more reasonable and experienced alternatives.
Escaping From responsibilities!!
 I don’t like quoting from the “instructors”, yet this time it may help to clarify a point. Richard Gray, an English Composition senior lecturer, in the first session of his first academic lecture said, “Many of you don’t belong to here (academy), I don’t know who let you to be here.” He was trying to criticize his students’ incapability and further he showed his irrational doubt by saying “I will conduct a research to see your backgrounds” In the absence of responsive and questioning students these statements are usually tolerated. I believe he and the rest will agree that the students are the product of EWPLI and the best results of AEE (Academic Entrance Exam). The party that should be criticized or condemned for its bad performances is the EWPLI (The program and tutors including Mr. Gray as he was a EWPLI tutor until few weeks before that day). He and the university could have stopped their “easy let-go policy”. After they leave, instructors and people from the main building, start criticizing AUI-S. Thus, it is logical to ponder, why everyone is escaping from responsibilities?
Unfortunately, on a greater scale escaping from responsibility can be noticed. However, the man who replaced Agresto is a bit mysterious, 90 percent of the students don’t know him. He was very brief in his only talk and that may give the impression that he has no plan. Meanwhile, however, Agresto could ran away as angelic as possible for a while until John Dollan revealed some behind curtain occurrences. This doesn’t mean that I take Dollan’s side as I believe he was as corrupted as Agresto.
Awkwardly, the faults are countless and Mr. Gray’s case can be applied to every aspect of the AmericanUI-S. Agresto, before his departure, to run from all responsibilities published an article on Student Eye and lunched some defamation attacks on Dollan. His last words, in my point of view, show that he did not care about students and the university and he was unable to normalize the inner staff conflicts. Most of the problems occurred before Jhon Agresto’s tenure, continued to exist and they are more likely to bid fare well the new mysterious man. I will be eagerly waiting to see more nice stories when people from the staff leave the university, as it is custom.  
I would like to finalize this post by hoping two things. First, I hope that Mr. mysterious and others have enough in their bags to save AUI-S.  The university lacks so much; it may be the time to address the issues and stepping to solve them. Secondly, I hope the beginning of felling responsibility by the university officials would begin soon. My firm purpose is the good of the university.

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4 Comments: on "AUI-S: One Long Year of backward-looking"

Muhammad said...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"
good job kak bahman, I proud of you.

Anonymous said...

This is too long, but to be honest, too real

Anonymous said...

This is interesting except you need to take some writing classes. You'd fail your writing class if you were in EWPLI today. I think there were nine errors in your introductory paragraph alone. Maybe more!

عشتار العراقية said...

Anonymous 3 found 9 errors in more than 2000 words written by someone whose mother tongue is not English. I think Anon.3 is one of the American teachers, or a dean, who, I am sure can not write 9 Kurdish words correctly. Picking grammatical errors instead of discussing the main issues in the topic, is kind of wag the dog.

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