After long talks with my friend Aryan, one of the most enthusiastic people I have known, I proposed the name for the organization we established together, "Students for Change". We went room by room calling for a meeting that night. We hold the meeting and announcedStudents for Change.
Aryan spoke to a crowd of 30-40 students, mostly from low income or middle class families. I wrote the manifesto that night. We established Students for Change.
We were going to be the voice of the voiceless on campus.
But it was not like I expected.
The aristocratic minority at AUI-S had established another organization one day before Students for Change and they saw in us potential enemies.
It was my first semester at AUI-S. I had not planned to make enemies so soon.
I quit working in any of the student organizations, simply because they had turned into small interest groups serving some "people", not the students.
I sent Dashnye Daloye, the director of the Student Affairs, an email. I wanted her to approve publishing an article. I even sent her the proposal, upon her demand.
She seemed to be reluctant to give us permission. She wanted us to work with the other groups for that purpose. I told her I was not ready to be a part of either of the groups, they were not for students.
Later, she spoke to me in her office. She had an idea to publish a brochure and she wanted me to work on that. I refused and told her that I had given up the idea altogether.
In fact, I had not.
In my proposal I had proposed the name of our newspaper to be, "AUI-S Times".
Some friends who were in the Students for Change group promised me to support my project financially if I put the name of their group on the newspaper. I refused.
They went on with their project and published AUI-S Post.
I congratulated them, knowing that it won't last long.
The other group, Student Organization, reacted to AUI-S Post by publishing Panorama.
Panorama was anything but a newspaper.
It was a collection of Kurdish and Arabic poetry alongside stupid news on Adil Imam.
I had told my friends in Students for Change: if I put your name on it, they will react and publish a newspaper. Let's have a newspaper for everyone. They didn't listen and the competition went nasty.
Only "tribal reconciliation" at the office of a friend could calm down the angry parties.
Signs of outside interference began to come, and Dr. Joshua Mitchell, former Chancellor, became worried.
He met the students involved and asked them to stop bringing politicians' hands into the university.
The two "newspapers" published no more than 0 issues.
Some friends and I came together and decided to do something.
We decided to do something new with an old name. we promised each other to continue on the project and accomplish something.
We came together in one of the Awal dorm's rooms.
We did everything in one night and in secret. We had decided not to inform the university and not get permission from them.
We thought that if we speak well of Dr. Barham Salih, the KRG prime minister, AUI-S will not see the newspaper as a foe. It was a time of political conflicts, we three didn't want to seem as an "opposition". So we ran an article on Dr. Barham Salih from the perspective of the students. Later, we were criticized because of that, but I think that was a right move.
We were not to fight politics by not speaking about politics, but by saying what was against our political affiliations.
|Header of the First Issue of the AUI-S Times|
Danar Rashid, Omer Nihad, Hemin Muhammad, and I were the only people who knew what will be in the paper. So we were truly an "independent weekly student newspaper" as we had defined ourselves.
The budget of the newspaper was $200. Each of my friends, Kaso Hussein and Shwan Anwar gave $100 to the newspaper.
We paid 75,000 ID for 500 copies of the first issue.
We planned to be a satirical and critical newspaper. we were very modest with our purpose.
We wanted to do something different. That was it!
The reactions on campus were diverse.
Some welcomes the idea and loved to see a paper
Some were critical of the editorial for we had said that we won't be another failure, referring to the previous two attempts.
Some just didn't like the work and the people behind it.
And some, unfortunately the majority, didn't care!
The administration was shocked by the step. They had no prior knowledge on what were going to do next!
So they decided to take the next step.
Dashnye Daloye called the staff. All of us, except Danar who had a surgery in his back, went to her office.
She wanted us to meet Jackie Spinner, the director of the media department.
Jackie was a former reporter of Washington Post, and her pictures while working in Iraq's most dangerous places sent us her strongest message: Anyone who wants to do journalism here should do that through me.
Jackie spoke to us about her plans to start a student newspaper, and she told us that she wanted us to be a part of the newspaper.
We immediately refused.
We had decided to be an independent student newspaper, not taking orders from anyone but from ourselves.
We went to Dashnye's office.
AUI-S Times's staff, Jackie and Dashnye talked for a long time.
Jackie told us that we were either to be a part of her newspaper or to face difficulties.
She told us that we didn't have the right to use AUI-S's name, and that we had to get permission from the university, and finally, we had to get permission from the government.
She said that we were watched by the government and they didn't like what we were doing!!!
I knew what was going on. She was trying to use all the ways she knew to convince us be a part of her newspaper and give up ours.
We were smart enough to reject her proposal
She had gone to Dr. Joshua Mitchell, and she wanted us to inform Dr. Mitchell about our decision.
I had all respect to Dr. Mitchell. He was one of the brightest teachers I have ever met. He wa teaching me philosophy and I valued his words.
We spoke for about 40 minutes.
We spelled out our concerns. We said that we had started that "newspaper" and we were not easily going to give it up.
We were afraid that our departure from the leadership of the work would lead to a wrong direction. We didn't want the aristocrats, a term Dr. Mitchell loved to use, to take over everything.
We knew that what was doing was not truly journalism, but we were fine, because we didn't want that in the first place.
Dr. Mitchell promised me not to let the aristocratic group get the newspaper. He also promised me to prohibit any newspaper or work backed up by the political parties and/or politicians.
I trusted Dr. Mitchell, and still do.
It was clear that the university was not going to let us continue our work. They were ready to do anything to convince us not to.
We thought and agreed on the terms. We were ready to publish our next issue, but we decided to stop and be a part of the new newspaper.
Jackie chose me to be the Editor-in-Chief of the new newspaper. In a an electronic vote, the majority of the students chose AUI-S Voice as a name for the new newspaper. AUI-S Voice was a name among five other proposed names.
AUI-S Voice was my suggestion.
We sat together and decided on the names of the editors.
I proposed some and she proposed some, finally we came to an agreement.
Yad, Bakr and Hazha were proposed by Jackie.
Omer, Shalaw and Namo were proposed by me.
Jackie's game began back then.
She said that Shalaw couldn't be a part of the newspaper because he was on academic probation for failing a class.
She chose Yad not Omer, because Yad had gone to her many times asking for the Design Editor position.
I really didn't feel much need to go into a debate on that. I knew all the friends proposed except Hazha. I trusted Jackie's reasoning for that one.
|The logo of AUI-S Voice. I gave the idea and Omer Nihad designed it. All this in 15 minutes!|
We were in a big rush. We had only 72 hours to publish our first issue.
We did everything in three days. I proposed the idea for the logo of the AUI-S Voice, and Omer Nihad caught the sign immediately and designed a nice logo with his great artistic abilities.
The big event was the graduation of the first MBA group.
We dedicated the first page for that.
We used some of the articles prepared for AUI-S Times in our first issue.
We clearly had problems with writing leads, reports, the style, and everything else.
I had to make a lot of changes in the reports sent to me, and it was true for Jackie.
However, all the tiredness went away with the smell of the first printed paper. It was at the same printer we printed AUI-S Times, Ranj. We decided to work with Ranj for its being an independent publisher.
I had made up my mind regarding the administration of the newspaper.
Each editor was going to be fully independent, and have the most of power over his/her part.
I was to have the last say on the controversial issues, not Jackie, and also not the board, because Jackie was good at making them vote the way she wanted.
But didn't go this way. We gave the board the right to have the last say by voting.
|This is me only moments after brining back the first issue of AUI-S Voice from the printer|
I saw that AUI-S Voice was really AUI-S Voice. While the name I proposed was only to give an official nature to the newspaper. My aim was to be the voice of the students.
I also proposed to publish the newspaper once two weeks.
They opposed again.
I had decided not to work that way. I was going to bring some order to that place.
I told them that if I was going to stay as the EIC, the newspaper had to be published once two weeks.
I would have been happier if they had refused my idea. I would have resigned in a second.
We voted. Three voted In favor of my proposal and two voted against.
Jackie didn't accept the results. She once more used Dr. Mitchell to put pressure on me to change my mind.
She was successful.
I was the Editor-in-Chief in form, and Jackie was everything.
I went to Dr. Mitchell and told him clearly that I was not to accept that. If there was going to be a dictator, that dictator was to be a student not a faculty member.
Jackie promised me not to interfere anymore.
But she did.
I alongside my friends had started the newspaper.
I had carried the idea, developed it and brought it to the real world.
Seven issues I was the EIC.
That big dream I had to have an independent media at AUI-S was aborted by Jackie's interventions and interruptions.
She was even sometimes saying things in the name of the staff, while they had no idea.
the last board meeting put an end to my connections with the newspaper.
I said that the newspaper was illegitimate. I proposed to have an election for the editorial positions including EIC. The editors all stood against the idea.
I was not surprised, because Jackie was against the idea.
They were, fairly, afraid of not being reelected.
I assured them that it was not my aim. I just wanted to have the first democratic experience inside our newspaper.
We were a staff of 45 students, and we could do that in a civilized way.
Jackie strongly opposed the idea, and some of the editors supported her strongly.
However, one of the editors' reactions was more than a reaction. It was a rude enmity.
At that moment, I decided to resign.
Right or wrong the decision could be, but I am better off now.
I sent Dr. Mitchell my resignation.
I wrote there:
"What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
Dear Prof. Joshua Mitchell, the Chancellor of AUI-S
I, Dana Jaf, am sending you my resignation as the Editor-in-Chief of AUI-S Voice. I have made my decision based on the experience I had in the past few months. My decision to resign is mostly aimed at not disappointing you as my teacher in the first place and then as the owner of the newspaper. It is better to leave normally than to stay abnormally. Life is about feelings and I really don’t feel well with this work. This is merely a personal decision. I am able to tell you that my mind is coherent with my heart in deciding so, but I will never be able to convince you with the reasons.
Thanks for the great support you have shown throughout my work in the paper
April 11, 2010
Now, sitting down and reflecting upon those times.
This very short and small experience has proved to be useful
Now, I know my mistakes, and the way I should have behaved.
The first mistake was to be a part of something which was not independent.
That is why; I am trying to correct that mistake, by refusing any kind of supervision by AUI-S on this blog.
Whoever is working in this blog is not expecting any kind of reward. We don't even expect thanks. We want to do our mission.
This blog is and will remain a purely independent student work. No one outside the student body will have a say on its content.
This blog is simple but strong.
The secret of its strength is in its independence.
*Dana Jaf is an International Studies and Political Science sophomore at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani