Saeed Tawfiq, a professor of aesthetics at Cairo University, was appointed the new secretary general of the Supreme Council of Culture on Thursday, after the resignation of Camellia Sobhy.
Sobhy, the first woman to head the council, resigned after two months for unknown reasons. Tawfiq was one of the candidates competing against Sobhy during the elections for the position.
As Tawfiq takes up his new role this week, he is faced with a number of issues at the council.
The Supreme Council of Culture Youth recently issued a statement condemning what they described as the “totalitarian management” of the council, and asking for real reforms. They have threatened to go on strike and hold a sit-in starting Tuesday 14 February.
Among their demands are more competitive salaries for employees and official contracts for staff who have worked on temporary contracts for years. These demands have been raised repeatedly since April 2011.
The internal laws on the selection of the members and heads of the council's specialized committees, and the various awards criteria, have also been repeatedly criticized. These rules, Tawfiq told state newspaper Al-Ahram's website, would be among his priority areas.
He added, however, that revising the council's internal laws does not mean dissolving recently formed committees.
Many intellectuals have objected to the way the elections were held — committee members could elect their heads, but committee members themselves were not elected. Critics have said this meant the people who controlled the council for years maintained their positions, while younger generations and intellectuals from the countryside were totally sidelined.
Tawfiq has published widely in the fields of philosophy and aesthetics. His books include “Aesthetic Experience: A Study in the Philosophy of Virtual Beauty,” “Metaphysics in Schopenhauer's Art” and “The Scientific Debate on Aesthetics.”
Last week Tawfiq was also appointed editor-in-chief of state-owned magazine Contemporary Thought. The magazine was first issued in 1965 and has been headed by pioneer thinkers, such as Zaki Naguib Mahmoud and Fouad Zakaria.