The economic and public-health crises gripping Lebanon are affecting not only the university, but also its professors, staff and students. Financial distress and the effects of Covid-19 shutdowns have left some students more prone to mental-health issues such as depression and uncertainty about future, as well as more serious psychological disorders. To address that, the university is expanding mental-health services.
“The teaching staff and students are greatly affected by the current conditions, making the launch of mental-health programs a priority,” Badran said. “The Department of Psychology at the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities launched an initiative called “Nehnal Haddak, B+” (“We Are Beside You, Be Positive”), to provide psychological support and mental-health services to those in need on campus and outside the university, free of charge,” he added.
The university also started a “Step Towards Success” project to provide academic services to psychology students and deepen their knowledge. This was supported by the launch of an online application to receive and follow up on cases of individuals needing psychological support, besides the launch of awareness campaigns and providing psychological counseling on social media.
Scientific Research Decline
Scientific research was also severely hit by cuts in government funding. The university is looking for research partnerships to help fill the deficit, Badran said. “The Lebanese University had an influential research presence in the Arab region. However, the current financial crisis greatly affected high-cost research. The long-term effects will be notable in the university’s research quality,” he said.
Given the sharp collapse in the value of wages due to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound against the dollar, Badran said that more than 100 professors had left the university over the past two years.
Last month, the university held negotiations with contracted teaching staff members, hoping to end their three-month sit-in over unpaid wages. The goal was to enable students to continue studying and sit for exams.
Teachers working on part-time contracts have not been paid for more than a year, and they enjoy no medical, social, or insurance benefits from the university. Badran acknowledged their suffering and said he did not have an immediate solution .
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He added, however: “I have part of the solution, as a mediator to convey their demand to appoint them as tenured teaching staff. I prepared and sent a file of about a thousand professors, to be tenured, to the Ministry of Education. It will, in turn, refer it to the Lebanese Council of Ministers.”
“The Lebanese government, not the university or its president, is the one who decides to raise wages. We are public employees,” said Badran. “We have already asked [for a raise] more than once, but the situation is difficult, and it does not allow us to raise wages, neither now nor in the long term.”