Dear AUP Alumni —
A month or so ago, I stopped by the AMEX on my way home on what must have been Open Mic night and four students were making music together. I think all four came from different countries, and the singer gracefully rapped forth from his wheelchair in what I remember to be several languages. The music was exceptional. That, I said to myself, is AUP. For a University that harbors 100 different nationalities in its student body and another 25 in its faculty body, the importance of a central agora—a marketplace—or a forum—a meeting place—cannot be underestimated. Through all of its historical ups and downs, whether managed by students or outside vendors, the AMEX has for decades served AUP students, faculty, and staff as our own center stage, our own united nations.
As all of you know by now, a week ago the AMEX experienced a kitchen fire and the building had to be briefly evacuated. For the moment, the kitchen repairs are waiting on appraisal of the damage by our insurers, giving us the time to make some solid long term plans for the AMEX, in many ways the very heart of our campus. I guess you could call that fire a kind of wake-up call.
I am writing this note to let you know how central the AMEX is to our vision of AUP’s campus-of-the-future. Since 2009, creating dedicated student space has been our top campus plan goal. During the lean years of the financial crisis and as we search for the building that will permit us to bring together all student life, we have renovated and created student lounge areas across campus. But a unified home for student life, comprised of a state of the art library, ARC, student dedicated space of all kinds, and for all major student services is critically needed. It must be a building that can be open late at night, where students can study, eat, work in teams, rehearse, edit, govern, and kick back, with as highest priority the creation of an AMEX space where students can make all the noise they want to well into the night.
In the last six months we have found two suitable buildings within the radius of our campus in the 7th, both with soundproof basements, but various zoning and ownership issues thwarted both negotiations. I am hopeful that over the coming year—our fiftieth—we will be able to announce that we have found just the right space for AUP’s future student union. In any case, the Board, the AUP leadership team, and I all view the identification and renovation of such space as our number one campus priority.
In the meantime and as importantly once we move to new space, the AMEX will continue to play its role as the social heart of our campus. I have been speaking a great deal with Raul since the fire, as have several members of our team, and in the coming weeks we will be putting together a task force to think about how the University can partner with the manager of the AMEX in order to ensure its “perennite” and the array of services it supplies to AUP students. Working with Raul, Valerie Gille and Marc Montheard have already set up a University-supported mode of functioning that will allow Raul to begin serving cold food as soon as possible, to have additional storage space, and to complete renovation of the kitchen this summer during the slower months. Our vision going forward is to find a structure that permits AUP students to support the functioning of the AMEX in various ways, to ensure the manager the support he needs, to create a business plan and a schedule that will “feed” the GRAMEX in Grenelle and eventually a kind of food cart in the Library, which has opened its doors to the possibility of food for students.
As we begin to make these changes together, I would welcome receiving suggestions members of the AUP community, past or present, might have about how the AMEX can best serve the needs of our community, immediately, and in its future evolution in a student union. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any and all suggestions, creative ideas, and reflections.
And last but not least, tonight at 19h the AMEX is holding a fundraiser. If you happen to be in Paris, do not hesitate to show your support for the AMEX, for its hardworking manager and staff, and your appreciation for its place in your AUP experience. The University has also created the AMEX Support Fund, through which tax-deductible donations can be made to support the AMEX. Every single small donation will be appreciated and help get “our AMEX” back up on its feet as quickly as possible. Please join me in making yours today at http://my.aup.edu/support/Amex.
Yours in the struggle,
President, The American University of Paris