Lebanon: American University of Beirut forced to let go of up to a quarter of its staff

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The American University of Beirut will let go of up to 25 per cent of its staff in the face of its worst economic crisis so far, its President Fadlo Khuri has said.

Mr Khuri informed Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Friday that between 22 and 25 per cent of AUB’s staff would be dismissed, local daily L’Orient-Le Jour reported on Monday. Mr Khuri told the newspaper that AUB employed 6,500 people.

Jobs will be cut mostly in administrative posts and both AUB and at its hospital, the American University Hospital (AUH), will be targeted, wrote L’Orient-Le Jour. The planned construction of a new hospital will be suspended.

Lebanese soldiers deploy by a civil defence firefighting truck during clashes with anti-government protesters in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh demonstrations over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese civil defence firefighters extinguish flames in a shop as anti-government protesters and security forces clash in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh demonstrations over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese soldiers with riot gear react during clashes with anti-government protesters in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh demonstrations over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters block a road with burning tyres in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh protests over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters clash with security forces in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh protests over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters buy corn from a street vendor next to burning garbage bins during clashes with security forces in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh protests over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters take shelter behind a public phone booth as a local bank's branch burns during clashes with security forces in the northern port city of Tripoli amid fresh protests over a spiralling economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters take part in a symbolic funeral for the country in the central area of the capital Beirut on the third consecutive day of demonstrations over a deepening economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters take part in a symbolic funeral for the country in the capital Beirut on the third consecutive day of demonstrations over a deepening economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese anti-government protesters throw rocks at soldiers amid clashes in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in the northern port city of Tripoli on the third consecutive day of demonstrations against deepening economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese soldiers deploy during an anti-government protest in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in the northern port city of Tripoli on the third day of demonstrations across the country over deepening economic crisis. AFP

Lebanese soldiers clash with anti-government protesters in the Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in the northern port city of Tripoli on the third day of demonstrations across the country against deepening economic crisis. AFP

On May 5, Mr Khuri wrote an alarming letter saying the University was facing its “greatest crisis since [its] foundation in 1866”. He blamed Lebanon’s “economic meltdown, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the expected global economic depression”.

The university’s revenue for 2020-2021 will be 60 per cent below its target of $249 million. “Most organisations do not survive such rapid and severe drops in revenue,” wrote Mr Khuri.

At the time, staff told The National that the university’s situation had been difficult even before Lebanon’s economic crisis, which has caused the local currency to crash, reached a boiling point last October, causing passive protests.

Mr Khuri said on Saturday that staff would be asked to accept a reduction of 10 to 15 per cent of their salary. This will be voluntary for those earning up to $150,000/year and compulsory above that amount, reported L’Orient-Le Jour.

In his May 5 letter, Mr Khuri had said that everyone at AUB would be affected by the crisis “from our senior leadership, which will take significant pay reductions, to faculty members who have seen their buying power reduced, to students and their families who are struggling more than ever to pay tuition fees, to our staff who comprise our most financially challenged group”.

Mr Khuri said on Saturday that in 1975, when AUB was in a severe economic crisis during the first year of the Lebanese civil war, then-Prime Minister Rachid Karamé had saved the university from closure with a donation of 18 million Lebanese pounds.

AUB functioned through the 15-year civil war despite the kidnapping or murder of a number of staff, including two presidents.

Updated: June 15, 2020 06:50 PM

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