Can We Talk?

By Yoann Hommel

Disclaimer: This article is only representative of my own opinion and does not represent the viewpoint of the Sundial Press in any way.

Never have I ever shifted from one side to the other so quickly. I pride myself on my lack of ideological entrenchment combined with the ability to yet still use a repertoire of values in guidance of my everyday decisions. On Professor Ruchet’s termination, at first, I was very much angered not only by the decision itself but also by the context surrounding the decision. A week after, the ground on which I stand seems to have changed. From one continent of mind to another.

The decision itself of Mr Ruchet’s dismissal has to be put in the much broader and historically rooted context of Sciences Po as an institution: Sciences Po was created to train the French elite at a time when France seemed to lack any properly educated decision-makers. The core of this formation was to be founded upon political science, political theory, and policy-making studies. The exclusiveness of the curiculum or the internationalisation of it did not seem fit for an era in which France, which only made education mandatory 9 years after Sciences Po was created, with Britain controlled more than half of the world through its colonies. This changed overtime, and this change has been most notable under our last president’s administration, Mr Descoings. He created campuses which were to be distributed all over the territory, in order to leave the highly French elitist campus of Paris. To attain his goal, each campus was dedicated to a specific area of the world, with only the original program and the Euro-African program on the Parisian campus.

Today, our campuses and their geographic specificity are being challenged by the new reform of the college universitaire. They will be harmonised, slowly but surely, to – some will say – make Sciences Po look like an Anglo-Saxon university. Others will say it will make the university go back to its French ways. Me, personally, even though I profoundly love my Euro-American program and its specificities, I am not convinced this is such a bad thing.

The world does not work only in the context of its near geographic neighbours, and many of us have realised the limits of such limitations when they asked the administration if they could take classes from the other program on campus. If the goal of Sciences Po is still its primary goal set out in 1872 – which is to train the elite – how can they do that in a globalised world when their students knowledge will be limited to a few countries?

To make the specificities of our campuses disappear, I’ll oppose that. It is necessary for one to understand the regional context and organisation, and we cannot ever deny the importance and relevancy of cultural differences. Our geographically-focused programs are and will be relevant for a long time, and I do not question this.

To make the specificities of our campuses more flexible, this is a question to be asked. A radical no or a radical yes as answers won’t be able to solve the issue, and to simply ignore the globalised aspect of our world is to deny a reality. The question needs to be asked, and there needs to be a discussion around it, otherwise Sciences Po won’t be able to fulfil its original mission.

If I strictly denounce the ways by which Mr Ruchet was supposedly dismissed, and the ways our administration handled this matter, it does not dismiss the whole reform of our college universitaire as plain evil. The discussion needs to happen, and to ask for this discussion to be as transparent as possible should be at the core of our requests, because this is going to have a tremendous impact on our institution and therefore on all of us.

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