We had a dream. In September, four of us had a dream. We dreamed that ESIB’s engineering students can put political and religious differences aside and work hand in hand for the benefit of the faculty. We dreamed that March 8 supporters, March 14 supporters, independents and neutrals can all remember the fact that university elections are nothing but academic and should always be that way. We had a dream that many had before us, but felt they were unable to realize. The past September, we wanted to see whether we would be able to make that change in an area that has seen anything but change.
We decided to share our dream with people who would be interested. With every new mind that joined us, our dream got bigger, better, more mature and more ambitious. We could see its potential, we could feel its thrill, and so, we decided to act upon it.
We proceeded by agreeing on our ideals and values. We wanted a purely academic student council, a council that is all ours, not some leader’s “2al3a”. We wanted a council that ESIB’s bright minds can be proud of, that they can only celebrate in ESIB, not in Rabieh or Me3rab. We created a structure for our still-nascent movement, in preparation of our future growth. We went public under an ambitious name: Mouvement de l’ESIB Solidaire (MES). Some students joined us right away, others were more skeptical… but we made it our mission to keep our values pure, and eventually, we won uncertainty outright, with nothing but truth and straightforwardness.
We had to work hard to make our dream a reality. ESIB has always been a decisive battle in the Lebanese leaders’ psychological war for dominance, and our colleagues have had illustrious pasts on campus with their many projects and – segregated – events. In order to compete, our movement had to have an electoral program of the same calibre, if not better.
Because we believed in our cause, we made it happen. We worked extremely hard: sleepless nights, auto financing, endless decision-making, numerous meetings, four fundraising events, way too many Whatsapp groups…
In the end, we managed to have candidates for every year in ESIB, as well as a stellar electoral program. By then, MES had become a household name: we represented the third voice on campus, something that has never been done before. Unfortunately, both sides tried – and still are trying – to undermine us in numerous, and quite innovative ways. In parallel, many politically-affiliated students supported and helped us unconditionally, as they believed in a united ESIB.
Our cause was greater than all, because it was honest. It represented the students who were fed up with the current situation on campus. It also represented the people who have never voted, and the people who placed blank ballots because they did not feel that the politically-affiliated candidates represented them.
Even in the face of problems that come with such endeavors, and all the inevitable disappointments that ensue, we did not lose hope, not for one second. We believed in our dream, and we knew with all our hearts that it was to become real, if only in part.
And so, on November 30, 2015, we did what no one dared to do: we made history as the impossible was made possible at ESIB. We won four places in the student council, two of which were attributed to our final year’s candidates. This end-result constitutes an unprecedented triumph, considering that we made it happen in less than two months of work, and against two giant parties that have monopolized the university for over 25 years.
It may not be a full-fledged victory, but it is a victory nonetheless, and a substantial one at that. We proved that the will of the people is stronger than any opposition they may encounter. We proved that the dream of an apolitical university in Lebanon can exist. We proved that there are a lot of people supporting this vision and willing to work for a more tolerant and less bellicose environment. And now, for once, we can safely say that this victory, our triumph over the archaic, obtuse and intolerant system installed by the civil war and its warlords, is all ours!
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
― Rob Siltanen