Responses to Aristotle’s column on gender studies

Editor’s note: The Sundial Press serves as a forum for debates about student life at Sciences Po and welcomes the expression of a wide range of perspectives from members of the campus community. We were delighted to receive an outpouring of responses to a recent column on gender studies written by second year student Aristotle Vossos. Below are two responses from third year students. The original column can be found here.

Deconstructing Aristotle’s argument

By Marcos Castellá

Little time has elapsed since the days in which I too found myself at Sciences Po dragged into a mandatory gender studies class, clawing for the earth beneath me. Shock. Terror. Rage. What kind of wicked spirit must posses these progressives as they impose this subject on me?

But the problem is that it was never like that all. The greater problem is that you can curate a campus full of cosmopolitan minds but you will still need to face the fact that a great deal of students, and yes… predominately male students, believe that having a gender studies course as a part of their curriculum is a capital punishment. No less than the solitude of imprisonment makes any free soul whimper, a course on Simone de Beauvoir or Judith Butler makes the bravest of men cower in fear as they run from ideas which are not their own. And today even the great Greek philosophers seem to sweat in the eyes of gender studies. The problem with this article is not that it doesn’t bring up legitimate concerns with the school’s curriculum, the problem is that it’s intellectually dishonest. It’s a poor attempt to disguise the contempt many feel about gender studies as a discipline and equality as a principle.

Sciences Po is a very public institution. The university essentially has in mind when designing its curriculum, the values, concepts, and frameworks of thought it finds useful for future public figures. I agree that the decision to rid the curriculum of political theory is a poor one. But I don’t agree with your problematic word choice. Sciences Po has gender studies in its curriculum. It does not force you or punish you with its inclusion. It is no more mandatory than any other course. Its inclusion is based on a judgment of values that the university as a whole believes is important for its students as many of them may one day lead public lives.

While you bring up maths, unless you were studying Calculus III before your first high-school prom, I find this literary exaggeration to be very boring. Maths is important but the singling out of gender studies signifies a bias because it’s quite clear that there is room for other measures to be taken to free up room in the curriculum, like for example the infamous arts workshop, or the group project. And even with an attempted masquerade of neutrality, your opinions on gender studies are quite obvious. As if it wasn’t public enough outside of this piece, your writing clearly reflects a total lack of interest in taking gender studies seriously as a discipline. Go ahead, play the brainwash card. You may complain of the indoctrination of gender studies but you’re awfully quiet when it comes to the indoctrination of realism, neoliberalism, and capitalism. I’m not sitting here to make a value judgment on any of those things, but I will point out that you chose courses on women’s equality and LGBT rights  to pick on. You don’t need to intellectualize contempt for gender studies- studies of trauma, violence, and overcoming- because that’s the only way you can sell your argument to anyone lazy enough to believe you. You claim bewilderment, but that relationship between class and sexuality you’re struggling with is of key importance to the same political theory course you miss so dearly. Though it may be easy to understand for anyone who’s spent longer than five minutes paying attention in their seminars, perhaps it’s nice (for once) to have the rigour of a woman’s writing exceed the capacities of a man’s mind.

You focus on the “returns” of education but this is silly, come on. This is not HEC, this is Sciences Po, and you came here to think, not to simply learn to lay bricks. While the commodification of education isn’t anything new, what might be is your failure to realize that you don’t come to study social sciences just to merely cash-in. I can attest to my gender studies course as being highly important for my thinking. Many of the things I studied in gender studies such as critical theory, psychoanalysis, historiography, and literary criticism have been crucially important in my third year studies. Aside from challenging my own assumptions, gender studies has allowed me to go beyond the limits of my own experience to understand the world- politically, socially, and economically. If you were interested in presenting a balanced case, perhaps it might have been useful to specify why exactly it is you believe gender studies is useful before complaining about the intellectual value of the courses or it’s lack of insightful information and so on. There is a very weak attempt at making this piece seem objective but ultimately it fails to cover up the bias of your case.

Now for those of us who are so content as to have a series called “The Straight White Male”, I wanted to add that the backlash against gender studies isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s the last of a dying breed. So it maybe take note Aristotle. Your acropolis is crumbling like a free cookie at a gay pride parade and only a few are lethargically picking up those crumbs. To those of you believe in this project- be proud. The skeptics hate the fact that the momentum is on your side. They hate the fact that tables turn and scales tip. Ultimately while the resentment is strong, justice as a force is stronger.

Marcos Castellá is a third year student from Texas, currently studying comparative literature on exchange at Cambridge University.


Clara Pratelli--re_gender courses.png

Illustration: Clara Pratelli


On the fundamental role of gender studies in a Sciences Po education

By Chloé Socha

Today, in most countries, no matter their political institutions, middle-aged cis straight men make decisions in the name of women, transgender people, sexual minorities and racial minorities. Sure, times are changing. But not that fast. Tomorrow, men and women now studying at Sciences Po will be making decisions in the name of gender, sexual and racial minorities impacting thousands of lives across the world. Lives are being put in the hands of politicians who are unaware of the daily realities of queer folks, black women, working class women, trans people. Gender studies do give a voice to these minorities.

We are one of the first generations studying gender and its social implications. We are given tools to abolish gender discrimination, homophobia, transphobia. Learning about gender construction is the first step towards reaching equality in our societies. Teaching gender studies in  Sciences Po is as important as sociology and political science. Sure it is not math nor physics, but it never claimed to be so and does not pursue comparable goals. By making it optional, the risk would be only having people already sensitive to those issues taking gender studies classes. The very goal of teaching it is to challenge everyone’s assumptions on gender, and work towards ending oppressive thinking and behaviours in one’s life and career.

Gender studies are among the rare if not only field where women, gender and sexual minorities get more than a subsection of an outline. Women scholars are overall absent from our readings. The theories we study, although fundamental, barely address the place of women in society. Social contracts were established as contracts between men, where women did not belong to the public sphere. The gendered division of the economy and labor, and the contribution of women to the economy through surplus labor have a much smaller weight in the economics we study than they have in reality. Gender studies is the one field where women’s place, issues and expected roles are addressed, where LGBTQ+ identities are acknowledged, where the binary vision of gender, from which many people are excluded, is questioned. Many of us will be making decisions and implement policies that will impact women, queer and trans people. Gender studies focus on more than 50% of humanity and deserve 24 hours of your time.

Chloé Socha is a third year student currently studying at Mount Holyoke College on exchange.


Credits: Featured Image by Chloé Joubert.

Dear BDE, why are only the 2A’s throwing parties?

By Miko Lepistö

The students on our campus have been divided into the chosen, and the rejected. We are living in the wake of stressful association interviews, and many, yours truly included, have joined the ranks of the BDP – bureau des perdants. Taking the risk of sounding like a bitter loser, I will comment on the unfair selection process of the bureau des élèves (BDE) as well as its lack of a democratic mandate from the student body.

First year students: ants scurrying for influence

Let us start by recognizing some facts. Yes, our campus hosts many talented individuals who would love to bring color to the everyday humdrum of student life. No, they can’t all be part of the central organisation setting up events: the BDE. A flood of applications from first year students follows, as well as competition, where the most capable ones get picked. It’s a question of efficiency. Of course we want the most talented students running the apparatus that provides much-needed stress relief. It’s all for the greater good, is it not?

As I received my rejection message from the BDE, I had to ask myself whether it was fair. I bear no grudge against my interviewers, but my answer remains a resounding no. We should not concern ourselves with those who are chosen–anyone in our student body entrusted with responsibility will be up to the task– but more so with those who choose. The selection process of first year students into the BDE, or in fact to the babyBDE, a prefix that should be emphasized, is structurally unfair.

Firstly, we encounter the problems posed by moral hazard and old boy networks. Who will guarantee that all interviews are impartial? Would not a first year, having spent all of integration week chatting up second years, be in a marginally better starting position than their competitors? This problem is as old as politics. The solution would not be to invest in impartial robots to interview the candidates and create an algorithm to objectively choose the best applicants. We must remind ourselves of the issue at hand: fairness. Justice is fairness, and whenever we enter the domain of the former, we must also enter that of politics, and its dominating form: democracy.

Second year students: the wise who rule

The BDE is a permanent bureau, which means it receives funding from the administration of Sciences Po. It has as a mission to shape discourse on student life with the administration and to organize events for the whole student body. This universal aspect justifies the funding they receive. The bureau gets elected from the ranks of first-year students in March, and its mandate begins with the coming of the next school year. When September and October come about, newly arrived students are selected to join the baby-BDE by the sitting incumbents via the interview procedure we all are familiar with. This means that first year students have no say whatsoever in who gets to run a large portion of student life. In fact, the only 1As in the bureau, the “babies,” are indirectly selected by second years. The BDE is supposed to provide for all students on campus. The fact that only 2A’s get to affect its makeup borders on the ridiculous.

I know the counter-argument: it’s the same one voiced against democracy by Plato. “The wise should rule.” First year students have just arrived on campus and in Reims. They aren’t knowledgeable enough to run for office, nor to select the best candidates. They don’t know the best clubs in town, nor are they aware of the rhythm of the school year. All this is true, but it doesn’t justify excluding us from this aspect of student politics for the duration of the whole school year. An institution that receives funding from the central administration, and undertakes to represent and serve the whole student body, should be run – and elected – by all the students, not just the eldest and wisest.

Miko Lepistö is a first year student from the bowels of Helsinki. The only student living on the notorious “other side of town”, as well as an avid biker due to necessity. Looney Truths runs the third Tuesday of every month.

LEPISTO, OpEd Image 17.10.17

Image: Miko Lepistö//The Sundial Press


A response to the 23% of Sciences Po students that “have seriously considered dropping out”

By Alina Yalmanian

It has been nearly a month and a half since integration week started: by now we have become familiar with Reims, we don’t need to ask for directions to our classrooms anymore, we have come to accept and maybe even enjoy the coffee from the cafeteria, but more importantly by now we have come to understand what studying at Sciences Po means: trying not to drown under a huge workload while balancing association duties and social life. I don’t know about you, but when I had the chance to talk to Sciences Po students before applying, this is exactly the experience they had promised me. And it seems to me that everyone is managing to balance all of this with perfect ease, making it look like no big deal.

This is why I was surprised to see more and more people on Facebook saying that they feel overwhelmed by the workload given to us, and that Sciences Po used to be their dream, but now they think that they have aimed too high. I shook it off, thinking that this was just because students were getting nervous as midterms are approaching.

However, I then found out about a survey led by a Sciences Po student on the Paris campus in January 2017, saying that 23% of the 328 asked students have seriously thought about dropping out. This surprised me. Not because I haven’t had any doubts myself – to the contrary, I have often felt like I am watching people run a marathon without breaking into sweat, while I am panting and trying to keep up. What shocked me is the large number of people who have felt this way; especially because one of my first impressions of the campus was that I was among many determined and confident students, who loudly and proudly sang our campus chants with no worry in the world.

I can’t help but ask myself: are some of the people on campus really as confident as they seem and act? Or are some students projecting an image of themselves for whatever reasons? Before we go any further, let me be clear: I don’t think that everyone is putting on a façade while silently crumbling inside, in fact, I am more than certain that many students on campus are as confident as they seem, and I am truly happy for that. However, after talking to some of the people here and seeing the results of that survey, I know that there is a large number of students who sometimes feel like they don’t deserve to be here as much as others.

Maybe this is not solely due to a lack of confidence: after all, one of the first things we were told as we were nervously sitting in that majestic room in the city hall on our very first day of integration was that we are all here because we were at the top of our class, but that this was going to change, that it wasn’t going to be easy, that a thirteen was the new seventeen. While I understand that they had to make clear we knew that attending a “Grande École” was going to change a lot for us and our academic habits, I believe that this strategy, while mentally preparing us for hard work and some academic disappointments, did affect the confidence of some of us. I must say that I find this amusing – not in a condescending or belittling way since I myself am a doubter, but rather in the way you would find human nature and behavior to be amusing: we have all done a thousand different things and our CVs are three kilometers long, we have worked really hard to be where we are, and now that we finally are where we wanted to be, we feel like we don’t deserve to be here.

I am aware of the fact that the people making up these 23% had various reasons why they considered dropping out: for some, it was maybe their disappointment in the courses, for others it might have been the realization that Sciences Po wasn’t the right path for them. But, after talking to some students, I do believe that a big part of those 23% believe that they do not belong here because they let the speeches by administration members or teachers get to them.

I want to say to these students that the next time you see one of your classmates shoot their hand up the second after the lecturer asked what you thought to be a complicated and gruesome question, instead of being disappointed because the answer did not seem instinctive to you and instead of thinking that it shows that you can’t keep up, be proud and lucky that you have the opportunity to study in a place filled with incredibly intelligent people. And know and remember that you are here because you are just like those people. Maybe you haven’t had the chance to shine as bright as you did at high school: it’s ok, this is not high school; you are walking the same path as François Mitterand, Emmanuel Macron, Christian Dior and many other names. This is meant to be difficult and that is fine. Think about it: only 18% of undergraduate applicants were admitted in 2016; you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t deserve to be here.

Let me also share with you what I have come to understand in this short month and a half after having had some moments where I also have felt overwhelmed: you don’t have to be the best at everything you do; remember – you already are among the best. And once you realize that and give what you think to be your best, you can start enjoying all the things Sciences Po has to offer. The university experience takes place as much outside of campus walls as inside a classroom; when you go back home for Christmas, none of your friends will ask about what grade you got on that last history paper.

So, to all the doubters: you worked hard and made it here. Now, try to shake the pressure off, and go do what students do; eat too much pasta, get drunk on cheap wine with your friends, go do whatever you believe is fun, and do not worry too much. You are here because you deserve to be here. These experiences will shape you more than that extra hour spent at the library.

Alina Yalmanian is a first year student, whose origins and nationality are too complicated to be explained in two sentences. Plays the drums and does martial arts even if she really does not look like it. On The Loose runs the second Thursday of every month.

Photo: BDA Facebook Page

Sciences Pistes, stand up for free expression

By Jimmy Quinn

The first year student representative campaign started on Friday morning, and the world of Sciences Po Facebook was soon flooded with candidate letters, graphics, and campaign pages. Over the next few days one issue first year voters should ask the candidates about is what they think about free expression at Sciences Po.

While we only spend two years at the campus of Reims, these two years come at a time of unprecedented growth and change for the university as it seeks an internationally-renowned reputation.

In curriculum changes, international partnerships and public relations campaigns, Sciences Po has chosen a path of internationalization, and on the campus of Reims, Americanization. Just take the medical team hired in response to student demand, an oddity by French university standards, which typically separate the personal and the academic. Features of student life have evolved, too: Association activity is marked by a Franco-cosmopolitan melange that includes French essentials like the bureau des eléves (BDE) and relative newcomers like Black Lives Matter, an American export, and Model United Nations.

At Sciences Po we receive an international education and hold the university to international standards. We should apply this expectation to free expression, too.

The education we seek here is a normative defense of liberal democracy through the pursuit of truth—at least, this is the essence of what we’re told at the rentrée solennelle ceremony. We are expected to hold opinions and defend them in conversation, on paper, in front of a group—we are expected to be active participants in a lively exchange of ideas, the hallmark of any free society.

Understanding the centrality of intellectual discussion to the university’s mission, it’s strange that Sciences Po doesn’t have a codified policy protecting the freedom of expression. In a recent meeting with members of the administration I was told that our school doesn’t have one and likely never will, that such a policy is germane to the United States but not to France.

This explains why when protesting students blocked nationalist politician Florian Philippot from speaking at Sciences Po’s Paris campus last year the university was forced to cancel the appearance due to security concerns. Sciences Po didn’t have a contingency plan in place to ensure that the event would go on and left its commitment to fostering a free exchange of ideas at the altar, despite university president Frédéric Mion’s admirable condemnation of the blockage.

It also casts light upon the cancellation of journalist David Satter’s lecture last January. After the anti-Putin author was abruptly disinvited from speaking at Sciences Po’s center for international research (CERI), Le Monde reported on leaked emails indicating that the cancellation was due to the fear the talk would harm relations with partner universities in Russia. Thankfully, though this is no substitute for the cancelled talk, pro-dissent factions within CERI organized a conference with Chinese dissidents a few months later. Good on them.

While Sciences Po’s commitment to free expression is generally strong, it is too capricious for comfort. As an incident involving the Cambridge University Press and the Chinese Government demonstrated this summer, even a single act of capitulation to those who oppose free expression causes damage to an institution’s reputation and enables those with authoritarian tendencies.

On the Reims campus, we have been asked to take the word of administrators that they want to ensure the most open intellectual environment possible—and they have kept this vow so far. However, students and their elected representatives must hold the university to account.

The administration should affirm the Chicago Statement on Free Expression, a document released by the University of Chicago (a third year exchange partner) that discusses the freedom of expression in the university environment. One excerpt states, “Fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission.”

The Chicago Statement offers a refreshing defense of discussion and debate. Dozens of American universities have adopted the principles articulated in the statement, among them Princeton University (a third year exchange partner) and Columbia University (another third year partner, which shares a couple of dual degree programs with Sciences Po). Adopting it is not a question of the American first amendment—many of the universities that have incorporated these principles are private and not bound by it—but instead a question of being taken seriously as an internationally-renowned institution where rigorous intellectual dialogue is defended from creeping illiberalism.

We are a community of students, and we will often be wrong about things. We will sometimes voice half-baked opinions or sentiments that others see as impolitic. Discourse is rarely pretty and quite often ugly, but it gives us room to discover what we previously didn’t know about ourselves and the people with whom we interact. In choosing Sciences Po we embraced the grotesque beauty of difficult conversations and new ideas over the rigid dogma of what we already know, and we expect the university to go to the farthest lengths to make this possible.

Campaign week is a special celebration of this ideal; candidates and voters, stand up for its preservation.

Jimmy Quinn is a second year student at Sciences Po Campus of Reims. He is a student representative and editor in chief of The Sundial Press.


Photo: Simone Richler//The Sundial Press

Gender Studies should not be mandatory

By Aristotle Vossos

Every Wednesday at 1:15pm I go to my gender studies course. And every Wednesday at 1:15pm I wonder what the point is. Why do we spend the same amount of time in a gender studies class as we do in our core classes? Why is this a mandatory class while second year students do not even have the option of taking a mathematics course?

Before you bring out the pitchforks and torches, let me explain myself. Gender studies is not a useless subject. The gender studies classes taught at Sciences Po are often interesting, and a good deal of students would benefit from some exposure to them. But they should not be mandatory. Why are gender studies more important than mathematics? Students enrolled in the economics concentrations receive less exposure to mathematics than a fifth-grader. And Sciences Po, supposedly renowned as a political science institute, no longer offers a proper introductory course to political theory in the first year and there is no pure political science concentration. Therefore, I take issue with gender studies classes at Sciences Po for two main reasons: for the importance that is given to them, and for how they are taught.

Gender studies classes are afforded the same amount of time as all other classes, including our concentrations, and they are actually given more importance over other courses because they are mandatory. This begs the question: Why is gender studies so important? Why has the administration decided to favour gender studies over mathematics or political science? There is no clear answer. Mathematics is arguably far more useful than gender studies and is one of the few subjects where what is taught is indeed a fact. It cannot be argued whether the Pythagorean Theorem is valid or not. And having a proper grasp of mathematics is far more useful than discussing the role of women in the Egyptian revolution. Does this mean that we should not study the role of women in the Egyptian revolution at all? No. But this should not take precedence over mathematics, or political science for that matter.

Most gender studies classes are taught almost as indoctrination courses. Whatever is discussed in class is taken for granted, when in reality it is not. There is little discussion as to whether the topics being taught are valid and class discussions are rarely centered on whether we believe a certain author is right or not, or whether what is being discussed is even true. The texts used in some gender theory courses are incredibly vague, making statements such as “class and sexuality are inextricably linked”, without providing any concrete proof or examples. It would be akin to a text in a history class claiming that France played an important role in the American Revolution, without offering any examples of analysis. And in such history classes, we are at the least given a brief overview of opposing opinions to the main school of thought.

Moreover, we are usually only offered one opinion on each subject. For gender studies to be a truly useful course, we should be reading pieces from dissenting authors. This does not mean we should read texts that argue that women are subhuman and should spend their lives bearing children and caring for them. But we should be reading Steven Pinker. We should be exposed to more moderate opinions. We should be exposed to women who argue that they have faced little harm because of their gender, and then discuss intersectionality. We should discuss whether company policies that call for the hiring of more women are what is really needed. We should debate the value of a gender equal cabinet. We should be allowed to use the ‘critical thinking’ that we are supposed to be using at Sciences Po to form our own opinions.

The classes differ so much in their content that some are akin to law classes while others discuss women in French literature. There is no one general syllabus to be followed, and each group of twenty-something students enrolled in each class ends up with vastly different experiences and knowledge from their peers. So, what is Sciences Po trying to accomplish? If it is trying to give us a basic introduction to gender studies, then we should all be taking an ‘introduction to gender studies’ class. If it aims to deepen our knowledge and understanding of gender studies, then we should first have been introduced to it.

Either way, as it currently stands gender studies courses are being given excessive importance and delivering abysmal returns. As they stand, they should not be mandatory, but rather offered as electives. There is no good argument as to why they should take precedence over mathematics or political science courses. A large part of the material that is being covered could easily be integrated into other courses to complement them, rather than being taught separately. And above all, if Sciences Po truly believes that these courses should be mandatory, it must fundamentally restructure them and offer them alongside mathematics and political science courses. As they currently stand, gender studies courses offer little to Sciences Po students.

Aristotle Vossos is a second year student who likes to criticize Sciences Po and anything Sciences Po related. When not doing that he likes to criticize France. And when not doing that he’s either drinking or sleeping. The Straight White Male runs the second Tuesday of every month.

Illustration: Clara Pratelli//The Sundial Press

Jean-Luc Mélenchon : le nouveau “fasciste” ?

Par Gaëlle Fournier

Melenchon Photo 1.jpg

En avril dernier, le numéro un de la CFDT, Laurent Berger, avait tenu à signaler au micro de France Inter, la “vision assez totalitaire” portée par le leader de La France insoumise.

“C’est la rue qui a abattu les rois, les nazis, le plan Juppé et le CPE”. Au lendemain de la manifestation à l’appel de la France insoumise contre la réforme du Code du travail, Jean-Luc Mélenchon s’est retrouvé sous le feu des critiques. Signe d’un néo-fascisme ? Enquête sur les dérives totalitaires du leader des Insoumis.

C’était la semaine dernière, dans le cadre de la «Marche contre le coup d’État social» organisée par le parti d’extrême gauche contre l’adoption de la réforme du Code du travail, par ordonnance. Les propos polémiques de Jean-Luc Mélenchon, prononcés lors de son discours tenu place de la République, le samedi 23 septembre, ont aussitôt déclenché une véritable levée de bouclier. Depuis lors, JLM a occupé les ondes et la première page des magazines. En réaction, la classe politique semble unanime pour condamner les paroles du leader de la gauche radicale.

Du côté du gouvernement, Muriel Pénicaud et Christophe Castaner s’insurgent du parallèle fait entre l’exécutif et le régime hitlérien. “C’est une faute politique de mettre sur le même niveau ceux qui ont fait tomber les nazis – et la rue y a contribué évidemment – mais aussi Alain Juppé et Emmanuel Macron, c’est une faute grave”, a dénoncé le porte-parole du gouvernement, après avoir tweeté samedi son “indignation” face aux mots de Mélenchon. Une vision partagée par Gilles Le Gendre. «En mettant dans le même sac Alain Juppé, les nazis et Emmanuel Macron, M. Mélenchon singe la famille Le Pen, le père plus que la fille», a souligné le porte-parole des députés La République en Marche.

De l’insoumission au totalitarisme ?

Même son de cloche du côté des personnalités politiques telles que Laurent Berger et Jean-Claude Mailly. En avril déjà, le numéro un de la CFDT avait tenu à signaler la “vision assez totalitaire” que portait le candidat de La France insoumise, se disant “choqué” par les propos de son équipe sur le Vénézuela. Il avait alors mis en avant le “risque d’une vision assez brutale des rapports humains, des rapports sociaux et des rapports politiques” que pouvait parfois porter l’ancien candidat à la présidentielle. Au micro de RTL, le secrétaire général de Force Ouvrière (FO) a tenu à rétablir la vérité sur la ré-interprétation historique de JLM : “Le régime nazi, c’est pas la rue qui l’a abattu, ce sont les Alliés, ce sont les Américains, ce sont les Russes à une époque (…) Si on connait un peu son histoire, c’est même la rue qui a amené le nazisme d’une certaine manière, donc il faut faire attention à ce que l’on dit”. Les reproches fusent de tous les partis, l’ancien ministre LR Eric Woerth ayant récemment déclaré sur le plateau de BFMTV : «Quand on est un tribun, il faut être à la hauteur de la tribune».

La France insoumise.jpg

Au premier tour des législatives, la France insoumise arrivait en quatrième position au niveau national avec 11,03 % des suffrages exprimés.

Les cadres de la France Insoumise ont, quant à eux, rejeté ce qui a été interprété comme une comparaison entre le gouvernement et les nazis. Éric Coquerel, député de Seine-Saint-Denis, rétorquait cette semaine dans le Huffington Post : “il n’y a bien évidemment aucun parallèle entre le régime nazi et Emmanuel Macron. […] Jean-Luc faisait référence à la Résistance et la mobilisation populaire qui a notamment permis la libération de Paris”. Le principal intéressé a, pour sa part, pris sa plume pour contester sur son blog les reproches qui lui ont été faits, écrivant : “Je n’ai jamais comparé le gouvernement actuel aux nazis, cela va de soi […] Qu’un Castaner veuille le faire croire est de son niveau. Mais qu’il soit relayé pour faire du buzz dit bien le niveau d’abaissement auquel en sont rendus d’aucuns. Tout le monde peut vérifier le montage mensonger qui est fait de mon propos en regardant le début de mon discours”, accusant directement les médias d’avoir déformé ses propos.

Un différend de plus qui vient s’ajouter à une longue série. Car entre le tribun et les médias, le rapport est ambigu, voire électrique ; et ce n’est pas nouveau. Sauf que ces derniers mois, la tension est montée d’un cran. Le député des Bouches-du-Rhône joue un double jeu. Il sait utiliser les journalistes, faire grimper un sujet, créer une polémique. Les codes ? Il les maîtrise. Pour autant, il est loin de compter les journalistes dans la catégorie de ses alliés. Et pour cause. Selon lui, “le système médiatique est l’adversaire central de la bataille pour la révolution citoyenne”, incriminant notamment la presse qu’il juge responsable de sa défaite lors des dernières présidentielles.

Cependant, Jean-Luc Mélenchon n’est pas le seul politique à se plaindre du traitement médiatique. Durant la présidentielle, François Fillon, mêlé à plusieurs scandales dont l’affaire des costumes de luxe, tenait pour responsable les journalistes de son impopularité croissante. Au sein de La France insoumise, le diagnostic est identique. Pour le député du Nord Adrien Quatennens, les médias sont source d’un déficit démocratique : “entre le politique et le citoyen, il y a un miroir déformant qui s’appelle les médias, et c’est à travers ce prisme que les citoyens se créent leurs opinions. Donc, cela pose un problème majeur pour la démocratie”.

Médias Mélenchon.jpg

Entre les médias et Jean-Luc Mélenchon, c’est une histoire de défiance.

De l’autre côté du miroir, l’Observatoire du Journalisme s’inquiète notamment du lancement de la future “chaîne de propagande indépendante” de Mélenchon. Comme le rapportaient nos confrères de Libération la semaine dernière, le parti d’extrême-gauche s’apprête à lancer, en janvier, son média en ligne, sobrement baptisé « Le Média ». Ce dernier devrait arriver en début d’année prochaine sur la toile, probablement autour du mois de janvier 2018, avec un site gratuit, permettant à tous les lecteurs de devenir actionnaires du média. Des dizaines de personnalités ont alors tenu à apporter leur soutien à ce projet, signant le lundi 25 septembre dans Le Monde une lettre encourageant sa création. Parmi les signataires, on retrouve des politiques tels qu’Eva Joly (EELV), Marie-Georges Buffet (PCF), Philippe Poutou (NPA), Aurélie Filippetti (ex-ministre PS) mais aussi des journalistes à l’instar de Cécile Amar (L’Obs), Laurent Baffie (C8), Aude Lancelin (JDD) ou encore le politologue et professeur à Sciences Po, Thomas Guénolé. Si ces célèbres supporters présentent cette initiative comme un site internet “humaniste, progressiste, écologique et féministe”, mais surtout “coopératif et indépendant”, les cadres du parti La France Insoumise, ont quant à eux clairement annoncé le caractère “totalitaire” de la chaîne, la qualifiant de “chaîne de propagande de Mélenchon” Après son blog et sa chaîne YouTube, JLM pousse encore un peu plus loin sa stratégie de contournement et de dénigrement de la presse, en créant sa propre télévision sur Internet. Cette étape, qui vient s’ajouter à ses déclarations polémiques et ses provocations, fait écho à l’un de ses récents billets de blog, dans lequel il annonçait clairement la couleur pour les mois à venir : “Dorénavant, non seulement la violence mais les provocations vont monter d’un cran.”.

Qu’en est-il des supporters de Jean-Luc Mélenchon ?

Clémentine, 19 ans, étudiante à Sciences Po, est plutôt d’accord avec le fait que ses pratiques soient jugées comme étant totalitaires ” dans la mesure où il tente d’incarner les Insoumis tel un leader incontestable.” Néanmoins elle tient à teinter ce jugement de nuances, ajoutant : “Heureusement, il ne revêt pas tous les attrait d’un leader totalitaire”. Pour Augustin, 18 ans, également étudiant à Sciences Po, les propos prononcés par Jean-Luc Mélenchon ont été mal interprétés : “Je ne vois pas trop le rapport avec le totalitarisme concernant les propos de JLM sur la rue et les nazis, mis à part le fait que c’est certes un tribun (Dans la Rome antique, orateur populaire, à l’éloquence puissante et directe. Représentant élu de la plèbe chargé de la défense des droits et des intérêts des plébéiens contre les patriciens et les consuls et dont le pouvoir, très important, était limité à Rome et à sa banlieue, NDLR) et qu’il utilise des figures de style rhétoriques telles que l’accumulation.”. Selon l’étudiant et Insoumis, “C’est en effet la rue qui a ‘abattu’ les rois même si en l’occurence c’était une rue assez bourgeoise. Concernant le CPE ce sont les manifestations qui ont abouti à son retrait. Enfin à propos des nazis, je trouve qu’il y a quand même eu un grand rôle joué par la rue dans le sens où les soulèvements de Paris, Berlin et surtout Rome ont pas mal joué sur la défaite Allemande – ce sont clairement les soulèvements populaires qui ont exclu Mussolini du pouvoir par exemple – même s’il est évident qu’il y a eu un rôle majeur tenu par les Alliés et surtout les Russes.”

Un avis partagé par tous les Insoumis ? “Clairement, je ne crois pas qu’un des supporters de Mélenchon ait pu penser en écoutant ses déclarations qu’il sous-entendait que c’était uniquement la rue qui avait renversé, seule, le régime nazi.” affirme Augustin. “Samedi, c’était juste une accumulation de Méluche (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, NDLR) qui a peut-être un peu exagéré mais qui n’a en aucun cas comparé le gouvernement avec les Nazis. Il voulait juste montrer le rôle des manifestations populaires dans l’histoire, et le poids que pouvait avoir “la Rue”. C’était tout simplement une stratégie visant à attirer des gens dans les manifs, histoire que les manifestants ne se disent pas que leur mobilisation sera inutile.” Et ça marche ! “Les médias parlent de lui, certes comme le diable qui ne connaît pas l’Histoire, mais on parle des manifestations de la France Insoumise donc j’imagine que c’est une victoire pour Mélenchon.” nous confie Augustin, avec un léger sourire. Quant à la force de persuasion du leader de la France Insoumise, le jeune homme tient à faire part de sa liberté de penser : “Nous ne sommes pas une masse sans âme qui boit les paroles de son chef, même si c’est ce que beaucoup de médias voudraient faire croire. Nous disposons également d’un esprit critique et c’est souvent là que se trouve la différence entre la France Insoumise et le Front National.”

L’approximation historique de Jean-Luc Mélenchon a également été associée à celle commise par Emmanuel Macron, lors du lancement des Journées du patrimoine, le 16 septembre dernier. Se rendant au château de Monte-Cristo, à Marly-le-Roi dans les Yvelines, en compagnie de Stéphane Bern, le président de la République avait alors affirmé qu’avec l’ordonnance de Villers-Cotterêts, François Ier avait cherché à imposer le français au peuple.

Suite à l’entrée au Bundestag du parti d’extrême droite Alternative pour l’Allemagne (AFD) et au départ de Florian Philippot du Front National (Décision prise suite à sa rétrogradation au rang de vice-président sans attribution par Marine Le Pen, NDLR) survenus la semaine dernière, les dérives totalitaires du leader de la gauche radicale inquiètent. Pis encore, ses pratiques constitueraient un réel danger pour la démocratie, comme l’alertait Laurent Berger il y a quelques mois : “Parfois, il y a des discours qui donnent à penser qu’il y aurait des ennemis, ceux qui ne penseraient pas comme lui. C’est dangereux”. Signe d’une menace imminente ou énième provocation de Jean-Luc Mélenchon ? Telle est la question.  

Gaëlle Fournier is a second year student and French editor in chief of The Sundial Press. 

Sciences Po applicants are not always placed in their programs of choice

By Alice Bello

This year, 32 students in the Europe-African program were admitted through the national procedure, a grueling admissions process. For the more stressed and masochistic – myself included – they started preparing for Sciences Po the previous summer, sacrificing ten glorious days of vacation to be locked in a stuffy classroom to cram historical and mathematical knowledge into their brains in preparation for the written exam. Then came the time to submit their applications in January, pass the infamous written exam in February, receive the results of the written exam in March, pass the oral exam in May, and find out if they were admitted to Sciences Po in June, after the baccalaureate ends. It sounds like a handful – that’s because it is.

Of these 32 students, only 24 of them listed the Europe-Africa program as one of their two programs of choice. That’s right, you heard it here first: Eight students (25%!) accepted to the Europe-Africa program by the national procedure didn’t actually apply to it, and I’m the eighth of that lucky crowd.

We Eurafs distinguish ourselves with the color orange and a cute-looking elephant; we are a large family, and we march to the rhythm of our own drum (or should I say, of our own djembe). The only problem is that I hadn’t applied to be part of this family. Far from it, I had poured my heart and soul into the Euro-African program’s slightly purpler, American counterpart. Yes, you’ve read the last sentence correctly: I went from being a die-hard, aspiring Euram to a slightly confused Euraf.

Sure, you’ll tell me that with the new reform, I’ll be studying the same subjects as the Euram students; I’ll be allowed to study in North America in my third year. You’ll tell me that virtually, the only difference between the Euro-American and Euro-African program is the language they are taught in, but the injustice does not just lay in a paltry language.

To be frank, I consider the injustice to be bigger than that. I view the application process as a contract. I apply to a program from your school and you either consider me fit for it or you reject me. If you can’t keep up your end of this contract, then we are on unequal terms (for all the business buffs out there, be indulgent, I did the L section of the baccalaureate). I admit I had the right to refuse the place offered to me in the program I didn’t ask for, but let’s be honest: Sciences Po is Sciences Po, it’s an offer you just can’t refuse.

I’m not here to complain or start a revolution, I’m merely putting pen to paper to divulge a discrepancy in the way the admission process is handled. Perhaps the board of admissions saw something in my application that screamed ‘Africa!’ but when I asked them to justify their decision I was left with something along the lines of: “We need to make sure we balance out the number of students in each course” and “our decision was based on your motivation and the elements contained in your application”.

Did I mention all 8 of these students transferred to the Europe-Africa program are female? I’m not one to make assumptions, but it certainly leads one to reconsider Sciences Po’s motivations: was their decision to transfer 8 female students to the Europe-Africa program based on a quota they had to respect? It would be contradictory for a school so implicated in male-female parity to put numbers ahead of a woman’s right to a certain program. If this isn’t the case, then what criteria were used to choose these eight students? Was it because, in their eyes, the profiles of these students corresponded to the Europe-Africa course better? If not, were we just chosen at random?

The international procedure, on the other hand, is void of a written exam. Not only that, but their admissions results are released months before those of the national procedure. It could be that the board of admissions accepted ‘too many’ male students from the international procedure and therefore had to counter this imbalance by accepting more female students from the national procedure. Once again, this is a simple hypothesis, but perhaps not enough women had applied to the Europe-Africa program and thus had to be taken from the North-American program? The only thing I know for sure, is that there is a lack of transparency regarding this decision.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that initially, I was frustrated, uneasy at the idea of being part of the Europe-Africa program. I would be lying to you even more if I said I had come to terms with being in the Europe-Africa program, but truth be told, the warmth of those in the Europe-Africa program have made the transition all the more easy.

That being said, I am only one of the eight. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to my fellow Euram to Euraf transfer students, and most of them have assured me that they are ecstatic to be a member of the Euraf family. The board of admissions certainly isn’t the antichrist: they have given us the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in France, but aren’t we entitled to know why our choice of program wasn’t respected?

Alice is a Parisian New Yorker or a New Yorkan (is that a word?) Parisianer (that’s probably not a word either) hoping to conquer the world of journalism one day. Interests include drinking coffee, reading the New York Times, and reading the New York Times while drinking coffee. The Parisian New Yorker runs the first Thursday of every month.


Photo: Olivier Chopin//Sciences Po