American University of Bierut
A diverse academic panel from the American University of Beirut completed a three-day speaking tour at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in New York on May 18.
AUB President Peter Dorman introduced the panelists who offered varied perspectives on the "Arab Spring" by positing universities as societal pillars in a region rocked by uncertainty. "The 10 years since September 2001 have badly eroded the public image of the United States throughout the Middle East. By supreme irony, the same 10 years has seen a prolific explosion of new university campuses in the Middle East based almost entirely on American models. Universities serve as resilient and influential anchors wherever they exist, but in no place more so than in today's turbulent Middle East."
The four AUB panelists, who had previously engaged with audiences at the United States Institute of Peace and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., and the River Club and Arab Bankers Association of New York (ABANA) in New York City included Rami Khouri, the first director of AUB's Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs; Karim Makdisi, assistant professor of political studies; Rami Zurayk, professor of land and water resources; and Rima Afifi, professor and associate dean at the Faculty of Health Sciences. Panelists discussed how agriculture, politics, history and health could bring a fresh perspective to the changing political landscape.
"It was material grievances—jobs, income, health care, water, practical things—combined with people's indignation of how their own societies treated them. When the intangible deprivations combined with the material stresses, the situation became volatile and it exploded," explained Khouri, when asked to situate the socio-economic roots of the recent uprisings.