Is There a Future for American Universities in the Middle East?

Why the U.S. Model Is More Important Than Ever

At the American University in Cairo, Egypt, January 2019 POOL / REUTERS

On January 10, Mike Pompeo, the U.S. secretary of state, delivered a contentious speech at the American University in Cairo (AUC). He ridiculed former president Barack Obama’s Middle East policy, thanked Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for his “courage” in confronting extremism, and repeated calls for a tough stance against Iran. The university’s faculty were outraged, not only by the speech but also by Pompeo’s failure to engage with students. In February, the faculty voted to declare no confidence in the university president who had invited Pompeo, Francis J. Ricciardone, himself a former U.S. ambassador to Egypt.

The insurrection was not just a response to the secretary’s speech but an expression of long-standing unease about the direction of the university. The faculty’s concerns about academic freedom and governance also in part reflect broader alarm in the academic community in Egypt about the erosion of

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