Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Political charges

AUIS disputes board interference

By Salman Ahmed Rasul
                   U.S. Ambassador Christopher R. Hill, and Prime Minister of KRG, Barham Salih, First AUIS MBA Graduation Ceremony 

The members of the AUIS Board of Regents and Board of Trustee do not try to use their political relationships to influence the University in spite of what some people, including an American journalist, have suggested, AUIS officials told the Voice.

These critics of AUIS are not familiar with the University and do not know what is going on at the school, the officials said. Some of them do not want the AUIS to be victorious.

Michael Rubin, an American journalist, has criticized AUIS several times. He most recently wrote an article titled “Trouble Brewing for the American University of Iraq?” that was published by the National Review On-line on April 21.

“Let’s hope that the American University of Iraq [sic] will remain more American than Iraqi. Perhaps soon the American University of Iraq [sic] will take steps to reduce its own political vulnerability by limiting the potential for political influence and abuse on its governing board of regents,” Rubin wrote for the NRO.

Barham Salih, the chairman of the AUIS Board of Trustees and the prime minister of the KRG, said he will not respond to every journalist and politician who criticizes AUIS. But, in an interview at a picnic for AUIS on April 30, Salih said there is no “political influence” over the University. He said the University does have politicians on its Board of Regents.
But there is “complete academic freedom,” he said of the Board of Regents, an honorary body that does not govern, make rules or policies.

In a written response to the NRO, John Agresto, the AUIS Provost, said he was confused by Rubin’s attacks.
“I am not sure I fully know why my one-time friend, Michael Rubin, has it in so badly for the American University of Iraq [sic]. Maybe he loves us and wants us to succeed. Maybe, in which case, he should get his facts straight,” Agresto wrote.

Agresto also acknowledged that there are prominent political and business figures on the honorary Board of Regents, including a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq. But they do not govern or make policy, he said.
The six members of the Board of Regents are Jalal Talabani (Chairman), Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Hacem Al- Hassani, Ayad Allawi, Nechirvan Barzani and Zalmay Khalizad.

“I am not only a founding Board member and NRO contributor, but I am also provost and dean of the faculty at AUIS.” he said, “Never, in our two and a half year history, have I ever been asked to hire or fire someone, add a course or subtract one, raise or lower an instructor’s salary- or do anything that would compromise the academic integrity of AUI,S in any way,” Agresto wrote.

Joshua Mitchell, acting chancellor of AUIS, also said Rubin’s claims are not founded.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Rubin uses every opportunity he can to assault AUIS,” Mitchell said in a written response to the Voice. “His central claim, of course, is that AUIS is ‘political,’ the proof of which, he claims, is that there are political figures on the Board of Regents. Provost Agresto’s recent posting in the NRO puts to rest any doubt about the political influence of the Board here at AUIS.”

Azzam Alwash, one of Board of Trustees, said is perturbed by such accusation. It is not the first time for him to hear such accusations, he wrote in a reply to the Voice.
“I suspect that these kinds of accusations are based on a misunderstanding of the governing structure of the University which is comprised of a Board of Trustees and a Board of Regents,” he said.
Alwash said the regents have a role to open doors to donor counties and organizations, which helps the University.
“The regents’ role is rather limited to opening doors to the donor countries and organizations that encourage the independence of educational institutes from the government,” he said. “The Board of Regents does not control nor influence the academic policies or the running of the University affairs. The Board of Trustees is tasked with giving guidelines to the administration of the University and the trustees have no right to affect the daily affairs of the University.”
Alwash agreed that the regents are political figures but pointed out that the trustees are not.

Kanan Makiya, a member Board of Trustees, he has been involving from the very beginning. AUIS opened in 2007.
“I think this accusation is totally misguided and betrays ignorance of the University,” Makiya said. “There has never been a single instance of ‘political interference’ or of politicization of the University’s decisions that I know of, and I have been involved from the very beginning.”

There are 11 members of the Board of Trustees of AUIS. They are Barham Salih (President), John Agresto, Fu’ad Ajami, Alwash, Rajaa KHuzai, Makiya, Jamil Mroue, Herish Muharam, Basil Al-Rahim, Abdul Rahman Al- Rashid and Faruk Rasoul.

This article first appeared on 

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