No Tenure, No Pay: Lebanese University Professors Strike

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We will protect the university with our blood and soul, with everything we have. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)

By: Faten Elhajj

Published Friday, January 4, 2013

After a 50-day strike, full-time professors at the Lebanese University were successful in obtaining an increase in their salary scale. Now, the fight is on to get that same pay raise for tenure-track contract professors at LU.

The contract professors swore yesterday that they would not step foot in a classroom until they become full-time professors. Their early morning sit-in paralyzed LU branches across Beirut. Classes and lab work were largely suspended, while some student associations expressed solidarity with the professors by not attending class.

At the Hadath campus, the Lebanese Army was deployed to contain the sit-in. When the army tried to block the western entrance, the contract professors told them: “We will protect the university with our blood and soul, with everything we have.”

Last week, the contract professors were promised full-time positions that would have guaranteed them higher salaries. But this happy ending was thwarted by unrelated political wranglings. Rumors circulated among contract professors that Lebanese President Michel Suleiman postponed their issue to settle other political scores.

Hassan Saoud, a contract professor in the Faculty of Science has a monthly salary of LL500,000, or $330, which is less than minimum wage. Since 2010, he has been paid about $4,185 of what is owed him. This forces Saoud to scuttle from one university to the next to cover 30 hours a week. He wonders when he’ll ever find the time to do research.

In the afternoon, professors from campuses as far as Nabatiyeh and Tripoli resumed their sit-in. They carried signs addressing Michel Suleiman, and told him that they have been pushed to the streets “so that the Lebanese University will survive.” The protesters were blocked from reaching the presidential palace in Baabda where the cabinet was meeting.

The contract professors did not succeed in blocking the international road as planned. Instead, they were surrounded by anti-riot police who seemed slightly ashamed at their task. “I swear we are with you,” some said to the professors.

The professors raised their hands and repeated their oath: “We, the contract professors at the LU, swear in God’s name that we will not teach our classes except as full-time professors.”

A statement by Raafat Tarraf, a member of the Contract Professors Committee (CPC) behind the sit-in, stated that “the question of granting us full-time status is being linked to forming a university council in order to waste time.”

He called on the League of Lebanese University Professors to “take steps within the rule of law to grant contract professors full-time status.”

Contract professors who are not on the tenure track list announced that they do not support the CPC strike. Their statement said that the sit-in is “a dangerous precedent in the history of the university, as it is the first time that a professor stood at the campus gates and prevented students from entering.”

The tenure-track contract professors affected by the unfavorable conditions at the university come from a variety of backgrounds. Dany Fadel, a former honors student in the LU agriculture department, returned to teach at LU in 2009 after obtaining a PhD in Greece. He feels that he is hindered academically and will not hesitate to leave Lebanon if he’s not granted full-time status.

Dunia al-Majzoub has been a contract professor in the physics department since 2001. She said that she holds the same responsibilities and carries out the same tasks as any full-time professor, but “we want to make a decent living so we can commit to the university.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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