Sitting behind his desk at the Lebanese University Faculty of Information II located in Baouchrieh, faculty director Hani Safi exemplifies a success story. His busy office depicts a hive of data where all key decisions regarding the faculty take place. For freshmen to university personnel, Safi, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy, in addition to degrees in management and journalism, offers a helping hand.
Driven with diplomacy and ardor for change, Safi’s rebellious persona always found a home in political activism. “College days were a joy-ride. I was the only person in charge of the Lebanese Forces Cells at both, the Faculty of Information at LU, and the Faculty of Management at USJ, simultaneously.” Says Safi with enthusiasm. “In 1986, I was appointed as Head of the Lebanese University Cells’ Department where all cells under the Lebanese University were under my jurisdiction” Dr. Safi did not stop at that. From 1988 up until 2012, he headed various departments including the Strategic Planning Department at ‘Maison Du Futur’ and the Media Department of the Lebanese Forces.
To Dr. Safi, journalism was always his true calling. He trained on-field correspondents, instructed workshops, wrote in several publications, was a member of the editorial board of MTV’s news department, hosted his own shows that aired on MTV and VDL, and published a book in French titled “La conception du Liban dans les écrits de Michel Chiha.”
The climb towards the top of the ladder at Lebanon’s public educational institute started back in 2010 for Dr. Safi when he was appointed as a lecturer at both, the Faculty of Information and the Faculty of Fine Arts. He kept the Faculty of Information by his side at all costs and moved to the Faculty of Letters in 2013. The Faculty he loved, loved him back and named him Head of the Journalism Department as of the 27th of May, 2016.
February 1, 2017, was a turning point in Dr. Safi’s career when he was appointed as Head of the Faculty of Information II. Dr. Safi was prepared for his upcoming tasks and duties because he knew beforehand exactly what awaits. His previous experience as Head of the Journalism Department, despite it being void of any administrative matters, ensures that he is the right man in the right place. He mastered the formula of the Lebanese University that mirrors the country’s society. He is aware of the corruption, favoritism, ongoing budget cuts for 5 years now, and the list goes on. And now, more than ever, he’s ready for battle. Dr. Safi stresses on “trying” because after all, the hierarchy controlling our national educational institute is hectic. Issues that could be resolved in a matter of hours take sometimes days, months, or even years.
Digging deeper into our beloved Faculty of Information, we cannot but notice the outdated curriculums that have a theoretical base rather than the favored practical applied base. “I am highly aware of that, and we are waiting for direct approval from the University Council, which is expected to be granted within the upcoming two years. Once approved, we will instantly apply new teaching methods while introducing updated courses. For masters’ degree students, in cooperation with the deanship, we are adding several new degrees in economical, ecological and digital journalism.” confirms Dr. Safi. “I am also working hard on implementing a sports oriented course accompanied with a gym, building a studio where students get to practice, plant trees, install seats outside in the sun, expand the university campus by building two extra floors, classrooms, libraries and giving fellow professors their own personal offices to relax and welcome students.” Dr. Safi continues to add that he is trying to partner with universities abroad to form an exchange program of students, professors, and database.
Everyone, even the regular viewer at home, is well aware of the situation surrounding the Lebanese media scene. Today, Information Science graduates from the Faculty of Information are the most likely to find a job, followed by Public Relations graduates. It appears to be that, unfortunately, Journalism students struggle the most trying to find a career that fits their domain, not taking “masked unemployment” into consideration. Up until 1992, the Faculty of Information at LU had the exclusivity in giving out degrees in journalism. Now, more than 16 universities across the nation do the same. Dr. Safi believes that he has no power over the market in any domain. But, in order to moderate the struggle students go through, he asked the Lebanese Minister of Information to partner with the Ministry of Education and conduct a survey that studies in detail the needs of the media market. This survey allows people in charge to obtain concrete scientific figures which dictate the flow of students into the faculties of information across Lebanon.
Dr. Safi does not stop here. With full speed ahead, he does everything possible and more and here comes the good part! With the help of the Minister of Information, the national television, Tele Liban, in addition to the national radio and the National News Agency, will morph into “laboratories” that allow students from the national university to get all the practice they need. “My dream is to set up a screen across campus where a daily news bulletin prepared by our very own students is broadcasted. I want students to film, edit, write, interview, research, and much more. Here is where they practice and grow. PR students can create flyers to promote our bulletins, Information Management students can dig up the information. The entire faculty must work as one team.” States Dr. Safi with a sparkle in his eye.
Observing the way he debates, persuades, talks with passion, and gets his message across in utmost diplomacy, I couldn’t help but ask Dr. Safi about his upcoming plans on the larger scale. And with even more enthusiasm he stated that, if asked, he is more than willing to occupy a parliamentary position. When asked about a ministry he would like to run, with no second thought, he chose the Ministry of Education because of its power in shifting the generations to come.
Saying goodbye, Dr. Safi’s recommendation of books shows exactly how cultivated he is and how lucky the Faculty of Information is to have someone as kind yet as brave and as hardworking as he is.