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Students, activists decry ‘commercialisation’ of UJ campus

By Suzanna Goussous - May 06,2015 - Last updated at May 06,2015

AMMAN — Students and activists on Wednesday criticised the selling of accessories and shoes at a market on the University of Jordan’s campus over the past week.

Activists from Thabahtoona, the National Campaign for Defending Students’ Rights, said the decision to set up the market in the “middle of campus” is “outrageous”, but a UJ official said the event was a bazaar organised by the university’s Islamic Cultural Centre. 

“The site where the bazaar took place, formerly used to buy and sell books and organise educational events for students, was turned into a shopping centre, selling accessories and shoes,” Thabahtoona coordinator Fakher Daas charged.

Duha Saadeh, a UJ student, said the university should invest in something more educational.

But another student, who declined to be identified, said the bazaar is not a “big deal”, and that many educational events are held throughout the semester at the university.

For his part, UJ Vice President for Investment Affairs Ghaleb Sweis said the university believes that the campus should never be commercialised. 

Sweis told The Jordan Times that some individuals “ruined the activity” by selling shoes, stressing that the UJ administration was not aware of the booth selling shoes and when it found out, the event was immediately cancelled.

The university, he added, always organises educational events and book fairs, noting that there are 45,000 students on campus excluding foreigners and visitors.

“Because we have a huge number of students from all around the world, we have to have a variety of outlets, which is why we signed a contract with local restaurants which are franchises of international chains,” he said.

“Opening restaurants on campus will not only provide students with a variety of options, it will also make jobs available in a place near their faculties so they can go work after their classes,” Sweis said.

Mohammad Saideh, UJ student union president, told The Jordan Times that the decision to set up markets and open chain restaurants on campus was taken to make up for the drop in government support to the university.

UJ now receives JD1 million from the government, he said, noting that in previous years, support amounted to JD12 million.

But Saideh said the administration should have opened chain restaurants off campus. “This is a place for education, not for making money,” he said.

“There was no survey carried out to find out what restaurants students want on campus, so this is not a decision for the benefit of students; this is only commercial,” he argued.

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