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Lebanon crisis

AUB shifts approach, will bring $100 mln from funds abroad as Lebanon crisis deepens

“AUB is absolutely committed to Lebanon, but we need to diversify our approaches. Lebanon’s greatest wealth has been its people, and they are leaving Lebanon," AUB president says

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The American University of Beirut is shifting its approach and pursuing projects and partnerships abroad for the first time in its history as Lebanon faces an unprecedented economic and financial collapse.

Part of the new approach will include partnerships with abroad in the Arab world and beyond, “to the East and the West,” AUB President Fadlo Khuri said Wednesday.

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But the reasons for this are not only to bring in fresh US dollars to the cash-strapped country and university, Khuri told reporters during an online webinar.

AUB is absolutely committed to Lebanon, but we need to diversify our approaches. Lebanon’s greatest wealth has been its people, and they are leaving Lebanon. This is the time to invest in its people; otherwise, Lebanon will lose its best and brightest,” he said.

And as the university struggles to keep a hold of its faculty and staff, most of which continue to be paid in local currency, Khuri revealed that AUB intended to transfer around $100 million of its resources abroad back to Beirut.

AUB also plans to pay its local staff at least 35 percent of their salary in US dollars for the next three months, Khuri said.

A general view of American University of Beirut's campus (AUB), as one of the Arab world's oldest universities faces its worst crisis since its foundation, May 7, 2020. (File Photo: Reuters)
A general view of American University of Beirut's campus (AUB), as one of the Arab world's oldest universities faces its worst crisis since its foundation, May 7, 2020. (File Photo: Reuters)

The $100 million is also expected to help local faculty and staff receive a percentage of their salaries in US dollars.

Almost 15 percent of AUB’s faculty will be away next year, Khuri said, with some moving abroad and others asking for leave without pay.

The AUB president hopes some of the approaches being studied and implemented will help the university retain its professors and staff while also looking to replace individuals that left.

“I believe firmly that we can change the world for the better one student, one patient, one faculty and staff member at a time,” Khuri said.

He added: “The people who decide to stay in Lebanon will have the chance to make enormous contributions.”

Khuri was quick to admit that the problematic situation Lebanon was facing would not be fixed soon. Calling it a “multi-year crisis,” he said the difficult days would not pass on their own.

“The better future must be earned once more. We at AUB are committed to helping earn that better future. And to lead in earning it,” he said.

AUB is one of two American universities based in Lebanon. Traditionally ranked as one of the top universities in the region and the world, Khuri recently visited Washington to convey the importance of AUB’s mission.

A man walks at American University of Beirut's campus (AUB), May 7, 2020. (Reuters)
A man walks at American University of Beirut's campus (AUB), May 7, 2020. (Reuters)

In a previous interview with Al Arabiya English, he expressed optimism that the US administrations, past and present, were well aware of the need to continue supporting AUB.

“I have to say I’m confident that both Democrats and Republicans recognize more than they have in decades the singular importance of AUB, and I’m confident more support will be sought,” Khuri said last month.

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