You are here

Student campaign launched to protest ‘commercialisation’ of UJ campus

By Suzanna Goussous - Oct 12,2015 - Last updated at Oct 12,2015

Some students at the University of Jordan are complaining of the spread of restaurant chain branches on campus (Photo by Suzanna Goussous)

AMMAN — Students and activists from the University of Jordan (UJ) launched a campaign on Sunday against “privatising” public universities and “commercialising” campuses.

The “Baouha” (they have sold it out) campaign criticises the “privatisation” of university grounds and aims to raise awareness among students regarding the hike of tuition fees, according to organisers. 

Mohammad Dmour, one of the organisers who is also a member of UJ’s student union, said the movement is one of many to protest licensing international business chains, beverage and water companies to sell their products on campus.

Many students from the Arab Renewal Bloc and independent parties joined the campaign on its first day, according to Dmour.

Organisers added that for the past four years, international companies and restaurants have been “competing” over promoting their “not-so-educational” services among students.

“This has been going on since the 1990’s,” said Alaa Hajjeh, a UJ student and activist.

“In 2012, [the university administration] announced a decision that students should pay tuition fees before enrolling… in 2014, tuition fees were hiked, and now in 2015 restaurant chains opened branches on campus,” the 24-year-old added.

“It goes against the goal that universities were established for,” he said.

Students said the “crisis” public universities are facing is due to the reduction of financial aid from the government. 

In previous remarks to The Jordan Times, a UJ official said the university used to receive around JD12 million from the government and the support recently amounts to JD1 million.

“This whole problem would be solved if the government goes back to supporting public universities again,” Hajjeh said. 

For his part, UJ Vice President for Investment Affairs Ghaleb Sweis told The Jordan Times the restaurant chains that have opened branches on campus, such as Burger King and Papa John’s, have been in Jordan for a long time.

“The decision to open these branches at UJ was due to the big number of foreigners on campus and the high demand on fast food indoors,” he added.

Sweis noted that almost 50,000 students are enrolled at UJ, in addition to around 10,000 foreigners and visitors that the campus receives daily.

“We want to provide services to our students… many Jordanians like to go to such restaurants, and around 45 per cent of their customers are international students,” he said. 

He added that many other businesses have been on campus since 2003 and students did not complain about “commercialising” the campus.

UJ, Sweis said, receives only JD70,000 annually for renting venues for the restaurants, adding that the arrangement provides job opportunities for students after their classes.

 

“How can the university survive if it were to stay on a fixed income with constantly increasing expenses?” he asked.

up
75 users have voted.

Comments

With all due respect, and I speak as a JU graduate, the university will never stop at just Burger King. The majority of students enrolled are registered through the parallel program, not to mention the international one which is far too expensive.

When I started uni in 2011, things were already horrible. No one would give funding for facilities; rest rooms and pavements were in an outstandingly bad condition. Students with disabilities had to run a 2 year campaign just so the university would add ramps for students on wheelchairs and allow bling students extra time during exams. This should have been legislated and enforced years ago. The ethics of JU are questionable.

Not to mention that they built the BK branch in place of what used to once be an affordable funded cafeteria where prices were 1/3 and less of those at the current fast food branches.

And I have no idea where they got their statistics from, but I was at the Sunday protest and watched those who entered and left. Less than 10 were foreign students. Others were Jordanian students; many walked in, saw the prices, and immediately walked out.

The old affordable cafeteria was wrecked and shut down after a blizzard, and for two years, we were desperately waiting for it to be renewed and re-opened. What the article fails to mention is that the affordable Cafeteria (known then as "Kafeteria Al-A'maal") was shut down and never rebuilt, and that it provided job opportunities with affordable, clean food in one of the most middle-to-lower class area on campus (as many choose to study Humanities majors because they are far less expensive than Med school or Engineering - which in itself is a problem).

In all my years at university, coming from a middle class family, I would get 20-30 JD pocket money a week, and it would never cover all expenses. I often chose to eat at cheaper restaurants outside ever since the old cafeteria was ruined by the snow AND NEVER rebuilt. Other students get far less and are forced to manage, or worse even - juggle a bad job alongside studying just to afford the next semester.

JU is obviously a greedy and money-hungry institution. All its previous decisions reflect nothing but greed. Paying before registration has put many of my close friends off uni to work, in order to afford an education. Later, tuition was raised for a number of programs, including the Masters Program. 3 years ago, companies like Nescafe (also a highly unethical business), crocks shoes, Adidas, Red Bull, Zein, Orange, Umniah, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and a good deal of other multi-millionaire corporations started appearing from nowhere. For 2 semesters, a prize car was parked at the very doors of the Library. Not the square, not the parks... no, the library! These companies not only advertise, but they advertise loudly. So it's fine for Coca Cola to bring along a DJ in the middle of the lecture hall areas, but when we protest and shout our hearts out, the guards would escort us outside, saying we are disturbing the peace and quiet of the lectures.

JU has been squandering our money, the money of the government, the taxpayers, and the students, to make MORE money, but not more education. JU wouldn't NEED more money if it hadn't lost the capital it already had, that used to run an educational institution and not a megamall.

Students have been against privatizations for years, but how can we get our voices through when we are constantly being shut down by giant multi-millionaire money machines?

Because, as you know, no money at all goes into activism and student projects that would actually benefit us. The student Union also has a questionable past, where much was stolen and squandered here and there.

There you have it. This is JU. The very heart of it.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
4 + 12 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Opinion

Newsletter

Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.