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Partners in peace: Palestinians to model college after Cal State – Stanislaus – California State University – Stanislaus

The California town of Turlock–home of California State University-Stanislaus (CSUS)–and the West Bank city of Jenin are far apart both geographically and politically.

But despite their differences, educators from both communities are steadily at work on the founding of an Arab-American University–a school whose creation both groups hope will play a role in facilitating global peace.

“The Arab-American University was looking for a partner who was interested in educating all ages, creeds and races in an area so recently stepping out of turmoil,” said Maher Fareed Irshied, one of the new university’s founders.

CSUS, with an enrollment of 5,900, is about 80 miles south of Sacramento in a town with a population of about 42,000–exactly what the Palestinians wanted, said CSUS’s Dr. Thomas O’Neil. “A number of the Palestinian founders are graduates of CSU and are attracted to CSU’s practical, rather than research, approach to education. The size of the Stanislaus campus also suited their purposes–not too large. They didn’t want to be a cog in the wheel,” O’Neil said. The California climate also was a deciding factor, he said.

Initial discussions about the creation of the Arab:American University began during the summer when Dr. O’Neil, CSUS’s director of regional and continuing education, was in the West Bank conducting an education program with emigres.

Later, he and CSUS president Dr. Marvelene Hughes met in Amman, Jordan, with Maher Fareed Irshied and other founders of the Arab-American University for further discussions.

The partnership received an official endorsement from the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat in September. In Washington to sign the peace accord with Israel, Arafat met with Hughes and several other CSUS officials.

After that meeting Dr. Hughes, an African American, issued a statement that said that she had wanted her faculty to know “this project has the full support of the Palestinian leadership.

“With the signing of the peace accords, the opportunities for the rapid expansion of educational and economic development are magnified and enhanced,” Hughes’s statement said. “This is exactly the right time for us to be involved in this endeavor. And it promises benefits not only to the Palestinians. The expansion of education improves the climate for peace, means new learning/teaching experiences for our faculty and students, and could even mean long-term economic benefits to our region.”

In December several Palestinians, including Irshied, president of the proposed university’s founding committee, spent 10 days at CSUS meeting with faculty and staff and viewing the school’s facilities.

“We were impressed with their academic quality,” Irshied said in a statement released December 9 by the Palestinians at the conclusion of their visit. “Their eminent faculty and administration were greatly appreciated.”

The statement further outlined that the Arab-American University will be, unlike publicly-funded CSUS, a private institution under the authority of the Higher Education Board of Palestine and supported entirely by Palestinian investors. Classes will be taught in English with emphasis on studies in nursing, public administration, engineering, the sciences and computer technology. Groundbreaking for the new university is set for March 1996 with the campus expected to open in the spring of 1997.

Dr. Hughes recently announced that she will recruit a coordinator for the partnership, a position that will be paid for by the Arab-American University. Some of benefits to CSUS could be faculty and student exchanges and on-site researches for CSUS archaeologists, Dr. O’Neil said.

Irshied said in his December statement that the main goals of the Arab-American University would be to deliver a world-class education, develop an educated society and offer economic opportunity to the region.

“It is difficult to achieve peace through ignorance,” Irshied said. “It is our hard-held belief that we can bring about peace through education and global understanding for both young and old. Education is the only means to the tools of mediation and democracy needed in the generations of tomorrow.”

COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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