By: Yassmine ElSayed
CAIRO, Feb. 7 (SEE) – Academics at the American University in Cairo angrily denounced the speech given last month by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where he sided with autocrats in the Middle East and played down the Arab Spring protests that upended the region in 2011.
According to New York Times, it was only this week when the speech became the trigger for a revolt against the man who hosted it: Francis J. Ricciardone, the university’s president and a former American diplomat.
Mr. Ricciardone faces an open challenge from academics at the university, who are angered in part by his decision to give Mr. Pompeo an unchallenged platform.
On Tuesday, the university Senate voted overwhelmingly to declare no confidence in Mr. Ricciardone, a former United States ambassador to Egypt, Turkey and the Philippines and Palau. In a resolution, the academics said that they had lost faith in Mr. Ricciardone’s stewardship of the university and urged its New York-based board of trustees to immediately begin the search for a successor.
The academics cited low morale, complaints about his management style, grievances over contracts and accusations of illegal discrimination.
But those tensions exploded into the open after Mr. Pompeo’s speech, in which he criticized President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies, emphasized his own Christian beliefs and offered warm support to what they called autocrats.
Academics were outraged at being given no say in running the event. The American Embassy was in charge of the guest list, which meant that only selected faculty members could attend, and Mr. Pompeo took no questions after finishing his remarks.
In interviews, several academics said they distrusted Mr. Ricciardone’s background as a diplomat and viewed his management style as high-handed, perhaps more suited to an embassy than a university.
Supporters counter that Mr. Ricciardone has only sought to carry out the wishes of the university’s board of trustees, which is arriving in Cairo this week for an annual review. It may now fall to them to resolve the dispute that divides the president and faculty members seeking his ouster.