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COMMENT: QU President’s controversial entitlement comment is not off the mark; Campaign against her is prejudiced

COMMENT: QU President’s controversial entitlement comment is not off the mark; Campaign against her is prejudiced
Shabeb Al Rumaihi

Twitter lends itself as an easy platform for debate. And the issues Qatar University grapples with are often aired on social media. The latest in the line of controversies and protests is the one targeted at QU President Sheikha Abdullah Al Misnad, for comments she made nearly two months ago on an academic panel.

On Friday, October 4, Dalhousie University hosted a panel discussion on “The Future of Universities” as part of its Presidential Installation events. Sheikha Al Misnad was one of the speakers. Some students and professors are especially offended by her remarks on entitlement.

“(It is) a blessed country with economic resources, small population. I am always thinking how we can motivate our youth. In my country (…) the national population look at it as entitlement, not opportunity to work hard,” she had said.

“[S]ocial pressure might some time lead to political pressure to ease things out.”

The talk was in English, and has been translated into Arabic in a prejudiced manner that aids the cause of the protestors.

She said Qataris view everything as an entitlement. And that is a reality in Qatar. Nationals cannot distinguish between their rights and their privileges. The second part of this twitter campaign is that they were upset about how she ‘made fun of’ kicking out 1000 students in her first year.

This is what she said: “It is easier to start a new university than to change existing one. We faced a lot of resistance from within the university and community as well.”

She went on to say a 1000 students were “asked” to leave due to (lack of) academic standards and that these standards were raised.

At QU, there were developments, ups and downs (and she speaks of this in an interview recently) and that is a natural process for an institution. Nobody can be entirely satisfied with the university but at least it has moved from a governmental department to an ‘autonomous’ institution (which is still debatable since Qatar University is not entirely autonomous).

The debate on her comments have gone off on a tangent, as well. Segregation, cultural concepts, religion are all brought into the discussion.

The hashtag under which this is being debated is one calling for her resignation. While those who disagree have every right to express themselves, the problem is when the attacks become personal, sexist and undignified, as it has now. Unsurprisingly, it’s the students (and some faculty) who were asked to leave who are the majority participants in this protest.

This whole controversy only strengthens two other things Sheikha Al Misnad spoke about. Nowhere else would a university make it to page one of the newspaper everyday, be it a student being asked to leave or ‘what we do or don’t’. “It’s difficult to live all the time with that kind of pressure.”

And, she also pointed out that “social pressure might some time lead to political pressure to ease things out.”

Everything does make it to the newspaper and now social media; even truer is what she said about social and political pressure, which leads to decisions such as switching to Arabic language for art streams, segregation, and censorship.

 

The writer is a student of Political Science at Qatar University.

Featured image: Screen grab of the talk

 

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