File Photo: Students gather at Cairo University main building to protest against the student bylaws, Cairo, Egypt, March 20, 2012 (Photo: Hala Safwat)
Representatives of Egyptian student unions blamed university administrations of attempting to pass bylaws restricting campus freedoms, they announced in a press conference on Monday.
The students met with university administrators in Alexandria this week to discuss new amendments to the student charter – but ended up withdrawing from the meeting and accusing the administrators, members of the Supreme Council for Universities, of attempting to force a speedy vote on their proposed amendments.
A statement by 17 Egyptian university student unions said they will resist the passing of the bylaws and also file a formal request to the minister of higher education to include student unions in the decision to pass new amendments and to hold a student referendum on them at the beginning of the new academic term which starts in September.
According to Egyptian law, the student charter must be passed by parliament or via a presidential decree.
"The Supreme Council basically said this is the new charter, a charter worse than the one under [ousted president Hosni] Mubarak," Wessam El-Bakri, a student activist at Helwan University, told Ahram Online.
"Students at the meeting said the obnoxious attitude forced them to withdraw," he added.
110 out of a total 120 students withdrew from the Alexandria meeting, Mohamed El-Shafei, a student at Cairo University and a member of the student observatory of the NGO Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), told Ahram Online.
The bylaws proposed by the Supreme Council for Universities, says El-Shefei, give virtually all control of student activities to education ministry employees, just like before the 2011 uprising.
New controversial bylaws were passed by a Muslim Brotherhood student union council in 2013, before that year's student union elections, and haven't changed since. Students say that while they had qualms over the previous amendments, they still gave some rights to students – an improvement the Supreme Council's proposals are trying to revoke.
The statement issued by the 17 unions on Monday in a press conference at AFTE's Cairo headquarters also said they will meet with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to demand him to prevent the Supreme Council's bylaws from passing.
The withdrawing student unions included the universities of Cairo, Ain Shams, Alexandria, Suez, Tanta, Kafr El-Sheikh, Menya, Assiut and others.