"As this story reveals, Morsi may have very well helped NASA build engines, however, his teaching skills left many students “destroyed,” mostly due to his less than stellar command of English.
Speaking exclusively to Al Arabiya, a number of his former students and colleagues revealed candid details, painting an intimate picture of the man we now know as Egypt’s president.
Born on August 8, 1951, the 62-year-old Morsi, referred to by his US students as Professor Mohamed Al-Ayat, was an Assistant Professor at the Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Management at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
After obtaining BA and MA degrees in engineering from Cairo University, Morsi (whose full name is Mohamed Mohamed Morsi Issa Al-Ayat) was awarded a scholarship by the toppled Egyptian government. This enabled him to pursue his Ph.D. in Materials Science at the University of California (USC).
It wasn’t long before Morsi, or Professor Al-Ayat, arrived at CSUN.
Familiar to most of the Hollywood-watching public as the backdrop in ‘Star Trek: the movie’ and ‘Legally Blonde,’ CSUN had no idea that it was offering a tutoring opportunity to the man who was destined to become the next president of Egypt.
According to his former colleague and current CSUN Professor, Nagi El-Naga, Morsi was a well-respected 30-year-old assistant professor who expressed no interest in politics. “He came to CSUN as a lecturer and then became an assistant professor… He was very involved in his academic position as a professor,” El-Naga told Al Arabiya.
As far as religion is concerned, El-Naga said that he considered his former colleague to be very “conservative” and “strict” with regards to Islamic rituals.
El-Naga said that Morsi separated men from women during “social activities,” and his wife, Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, did not shake hands with the opposite gender.
“There is a difference between being conservative and being an extremist,” said El-Naga.
Despite Morsi’s conservatism, El-Naga still viewed his former colleague as an “open-minded” man during his tenure as a professor.
“His English destroyed many students”
However, former students of Morsi had a different view.
“My grandfather told me that he dreaded attending his [Morsi’s] lectures,” said Jade Wallace, who is currently in his freshman year at CSUN and a grandson of a former student enrolled in Morsi’s class during the Fall Semester of 1984.
“My grandfather said that his professor (Morsi) seemed to have good teaching skills, however his English destroyed many students,” said Wallace, referring to complaints, made by his grandfather, that many students had to retake Morsi’s class due to his alleged inability to adequately communicate the lecture.
Morsi would vent his frustration by writing out answers on the chalk board, said Wallace, the chalk squeaking against the blackboard in his bid to overcome the language barrier.
Morsi’s English communication skills have been internationally mocked. In January, Morsi visited Germany and spoke in a press conference about the future of Egypt and the separation of church and the state. During his speech, which was translated to the audience by interpreters, Morsi integrated a few English words into a statement in Arabic. “Gas and alcohol don’t mix,” he said, describing how freedom comes with responsibility, and even in the Western world people are not allowed to drink and drive.
The audience was left giggling, and his analogy “gas and alcohol don’t mix” became a symbol of his lack of English linguistic skills.
Prominent Egyptian satiric comedian Bassem Youssef, who has lately been targeted by Egyptian authorities for mocking Morsi’s presidential performance, received a high number of viewers when he made fun of Morsi’s speech in Germany.
“English and Arabic don’t mix,” said Youssef on his show, leaving his audience entertained.
According to Wallace’s grandfather, only seven out of 32 students passed the Civil Engineering course during his year of attendance.
For her part, CSUN’s News and Information Director, Carmen Chandler, told Al Arabiya she could not make comments regarding Morsi’s performance as a professor.
The current Egyptian president taught at the university 30 years ago and for “only a couple of years” making it difficult to trace records of him as “very few people here remember him,” she claimed."