Sciences Po, the university which prepares – or should do – the future French elites, is once again in the eye of the storm. The prestigious school where a good part of the nomenclature who runs the country studied, including President Emmanuel Macron and the new Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, has been without leaders for 36 hours. Director Mathias Vicherat, in office for less than two and a half years, resigned yesterday morning. Personal reasons: the 45-year-old manager, a classmate of Macron during the Ena era, has had heated arguments with his partner in recent months, which also resulted in alleged (mutual) violence, and has therefore been referred to court. Private and legal troubles incompatible with the function. The university controlled by the Parisian government could only take note of this and announce an upcoming selection procedure for its successor. But the power vacuum couldn't have come at a worse time. Because precisely this week chaos broke out in and in front of the classrooms of rue Saint-Guillaume, but among the students and for a subject that could not be more public: the war between Israel and Hamas and the opposing hatreds that it leads, from continent to continent.

University typing

Tuesday, March 12, the day before yesterday, a large group of pro-Palestinian students occupied the university entrance hall and the main amphitheater, dedicated to founder Emile Boutmy. Keffiyeh Hanging from the entrance doors were Palestinian flags inside and outside, flyers and a large GAZA sign to rename the amphitheater itself for the day. “The university authorities didn't lift a finger to show solidarity with Palestine, so now we are doing it,” the student activists explained to French media. That they took the “taking” of the most prestigious district of Sciences Po very seriously, so much so that they refused access to a Jewish student who was protesting against the initiative: “Don’t let her in, She’s a Zionist! “, they would have ordered. The reaction of the UEJF, the union of French Jewish students, was immediate, speaking of a “red line crossed” and calling for “exemplary sanctions” against the students involved in the rejection of their comrade. “She was not blocked because she is Jewish, but because she is known to be rather virulent and to film pro-Palestinian students and then post on social networks,” she tried to say. justify what happened to him. Le Figaro a student close to the mobilization. But the aggressive wind against Jewish students that has been blowing for months on American campuses seems to have crossed the ocean. So much so that a little later in the day, other UEJF activists appeared in front of the university where the pro-Palestinian students were demonstrating, trying to counter their chants – including the “infamous” From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free – with others like “Two Peoples, Two States” and “The Assassins of Hamas”. They too were greeted with boos and foul language, their voices drowned out by pro-Palestinian shouts and chants.

Political reactions

What happened on Tuesday “is intolerable and shocking: our institutes are places of study and debate, and the law must be strictly respected”, he declared – declared the Minister of National Education Sylvie Retailleau, who rushed to rue Saint-Guillaume the next day. Precisely in the hours when, however, the other problem exploded in his hands, that of the resignation of Vicherat, who had already replaced in November 2021 another failed director due to an ugly affair of alleged abuse (of others). The minister's visit and the anger of Attal and Macron, however, had at least the result of making the university take a clearer position than that stammered in the first hours following the event: the direction, although left headless, finally clearly condemned the action of the pro-Palestinian group and reported the “anti-Semitic” facts to the Paris prosecutor's office. In the vacuum of “formal” power, the voice of Pascal Perrineau, president of the Sciences Po alumni association, was finally raised today, giving voice to the concerns of many former students of the school: a “wild demonstration”, that of Tuesday, which was the occasion for unacceptable “anti-Semitic excesses”, declared the political scientist. But the political and student climate remains tense, a few months before a very delicate vote for the European elections in which the extreme fringes of the political spectrum could intercept many cross-inconveniences.

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