Classes suspended at private university after violence

Administrators and students at Egypt's private Misr International University are locked in a dispute following protests that turned violent, forcing the suspension of classes.

The row started around a month ago when students held a protest after a colleague had been killed and another injured by speeding cars on a road outside the campus.

The protesters demanded that the university administration construct a footbridge to give them safe access to the campus.

Accusing the administration of "arbitrarily" expelling some protesters and dragging its feet on the issue, the students staged a sit-in on campus – where they claim security personnel attacked and injured 40 of them.

On 26 March, the university announced indefinite suspension of classes due to what it called “acts of violence by some students”.

“Students will continue their sit-in until their demands are met," said Osama Mukhtar, the head of the Misr International University (MIU) student union.

He explained at a recent press conference that their demands are to sack the vice-president of the university, who students accuse of ordering the bloody crackdown on them, and an official apology from the administration for what Mukhtar termed "hurtful conduct" towards students.

An MIU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the university was working on the construction of a pedestrian bridge outside its gates to ensure safety for students. The MIU is located on a highway outside Cairo.

He added that the university was ready to pay for building the bridge, but its construction still needed to be approved by governmental agencies.

"The demand for sacking certain university administrators is hard to fulfill," added the official.

For their part, lecturers insist that classes should not be resumed before "proper academic conditions" are ensured. "There must be enough guarantees for respecting university traditions and preserving the image of the teaching staff,” they said in a statement.

“We fully reject the unlawful demands, which some students want to impose on the university including the removal of top administrators."

In a bid to resolve the dispute, Minister of Higher Education Mustafa Mossad said last week that a committee tasked with tackling "different aspects of the crisis" would be created, composed of representatives of the university administration, students and parents along with an official from the ministry.

The semi-official newspaper Al Ahram quoted Mossad as saying that the decisions of the committee would be binding.

"Following the holding of the first meeting of the committees, students and the administration will withdraw the legal complaints they have filed against each other while students will end their protest on the campus in preparation for resumption of the classes," he added.

According to Al Ahram, Mossad has approached transport authorities on the possible building of the bridge over the highway near the university.

The MIU crisis is the latest to hit Egypt's academic institutions, which have been disrupted by frequent protests for different reasons since a popular revolt forced Hosni Mubarak to step down in February 2011, after nearly 30 years in power.