Incidents and blockages at universities as exams approach

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – PHILIPPE HUGUEN – | Demonstration of students in Lille on March 28, 2018 “against the intervention of the police and fascists on university campuses”

Incidents and blockages are increasing in the universities and have grown after the violent aggression against students in Montpellier, as exams are approaching and the delicate reform of higher education begins to apply.

“For the moment, the movement is very localized on some sites, with different motivations.The situation is constantly changing,” says Franck Loureiro, Secretary General of Sgen-CFDT, the first organization of higher education staff.

In Toulouse, sites of Jean-Jaurès University (human sciences) have been blocked since March to protest against the proposed merger with other institutions in the city and against the law on changes to access to the university ( ORE law, Orientation and success of students), accused by its detractors of setting up a system of selection.

The Victory campus, in the center of Bordeaux, has been stuck since mid-March. Blocking also the faculty of letters of Nancy “until Macron removes the law” ORE, told AFP Romane Mayer, spokeswoman of UNEF, 2nd student union and opposed to the reform. Same thing for the University Paul-Valéry (Humanities) of Montpellier where the block has been renewed in AG “for an unlimited duration”.

In Paris, the site of Tolbiac (University Panthéon-Sorbonne) is closed since Monday.

In Nantes, however, the blockade was lifted on Friday, the university said. Two lecture theaters remain in the college of letters and classes have been transferred to another site.

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – SYLVAIN THOMAS – | Iris Christol, lawyer of Philippe Petel, the dean of the faculty of law and political science of Montpellier in custody and suspended for his alleged involvement in violent incidents on campus, responds on March 20, 2018 to journalists

Student demonstrations have also been held in recent days in several cities to protest against the violence perpetrated in Montpellier by hooded men armed with sticks in the night of 22 to 23 March in a blocked lecture hall of the law school.

The dean and a professor, implicated by witnesses, were placed in police custody, an extremely rare event in the history of the French university. The Minister of Higher Education, Frédérique Vidal has launched an administrative investigation and suspended Thursday these two teachers.

She called for “appeasement” and stated “two red lines” not to cross: “no violence in institutions” – “these are places where one must learn to debate with arguments and not with violence, she detailed– and ensure that “exams take place in the best conditions”.

– An “unpredictable” movement –

Ⓒ AFP – SYLVAIN THOMAS – | Demonstration of students in Montpellier on March 28, 2018

Lilâ Le Bas, president of Unef, sees in these blockages the sign of “a real dynamic”. “The pedagogy on this reform is bearing fruit,” she says.

Days of mobilization against this law have so far not mobilized much.

“The mobilizations of young people often take more on the emotions than on the subjects of substance”, advances Jimmy Losfeld, at the head of the Fage, first student union, which supports the law ORE.

But the violence in Montpellier, whose images circulated on social networks, outraged students and teachers. The minister herself called the facts “inadmissible”.

The president of the Fage however questions the “legitimacy” of the GA, “which vote to a few hundred students blocking universities with thousands of people.”

A “classic” procedure during student mobilizations, according to Franck Loureiro, of the Sgen-cfdt, which evokes “a large silent majority who wants to have classes and pass his exams, and an active minority”.

He considers “unpredictable” following the movement but fears an exacerbation of tensions, as the exams are approaching, scheduled for late April and May. “There may be tension between those who want to take their exams and those who block the rooms, it is during these times that the situation can slip,” he said.

The Law on New Modalities for Access to the University provides for “expectations” for general licenses. If the young person does not have them, according to the commissions of examination of the files in the facs, he will be answered “yes if” to his candidacy and will have to follow a course of accompaniment.

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