Le Zadig interviewed Albert Frank, second year representative at the Conseil de Vie de Campus (CVC). He presented to us his work in the middle of the pandemic and his projects.
Can you explain your role as a CVC representative?
I am the CVC second year representative for all majors. The way it is structured at the CVC, we have the first year representatives, one for the English, one for French track, for the second year we have one representative and then we have one representative for the exchange students. They are usually selected, this year they weren’t elected1. My specific role as CVC is to represent the students. I am quite open as to what I can do, how much I can do.
How does CVC work?
There are CVC meetings and if students have issues they should let me know, send me a message, and I’ll raise the issues at the CVC meeting. There are two dimensions: the issues and then the ideas, from the students and the administration presenting new concepts.
Basically, the CVC is the student life council. It consists of seven members, on the one hand you have the representatives of the 3 permanent associations and on the other side the students representatives, with the administration, (the direction de scolarité on campus, our director, our responsable pédagogique, etc). We usually have CVC meetings scheduled throughout the year but if there are specific needs we can request a meeting. For the back and forth between the students, I post messages on the group chats and if there are issues they can just text me. That works very well.
What about the other on campus associations?
There are things such as extended CVCs with all assocition heads. But as we are the campus with the highest association to student ratio, we were over 45 people at the first CVC and it was very hard to organise. That is why the CVC meetings are only for the students and the administration.
Do you see any improvements that could be made for better representation?
Every representative has their own style of representation, it depends on the individual. I think that the CVC works quite well, it is very responsive.
Do the different CVC representatives often work together towards common goals?
Last year we worked rather individually, but if we see that there are general trends such as a general trend of stress throughout the student population, we collaborate, creating surveys that we send out to the entire student body. Our focus is on the community that elected us, but if we see that there are issues that extend to the entire student community, then we work together. That is especially the case in CVC meetings that we have with the Dean. We are also in contact with the CVC representatives from all campuses to identify common problems.
On a more personal note, what motivated you for applying as representative of the student body?
I personally love representing people. The reason why I reapplied is because, throughout the first year, I could really see how much a representative could help students in a time of uncertainty by providing certainty. The reason why I continue doing this, even when the times are difficult, is because the students motivate me.
What are the main difficulties and challenges you faced as a representative?
The difficulties I see are establishing certainty. SciencesPo has a federal system, but sometimes there are aspects that have to be coordinated on an institutional level. It is not easy to find answers to questions that the original administration could not answer one hundred per cent.
How did your work evolve between those two years as a representative?
I think it did evolve greatly, I started off really not knowing a lot about the institutional structure. I came from an American school system that was a bit “laissez-faire” and went to a CVC meeting where everybody is “carré.” It also evolved in the level of confidence, to see what is the best way to communicate with the student body.
How do I make sure that the most students possible reply to messages on the group chats? When I introduce my recognizable catchphrase “Ladies and Gentlemen.”
My work really evolved on an organisational level, on a confidence level, and on a communicational and representational level.
What marked you the most in your experience as a student representative?
I will remember that “Ladies and Gentlemen.” I started this without much attention, but soon I noticed that the students started tying this to me. [This saying] directly refers to a concept that was explained by a Russian behavioural scientist, it is the Pavlovian Conditioning. It is basically to have an input and afterwards give another input to get an output. I write “Ladies and Gentlemen” and people immediately connect it to the fact that this is important information. It came as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, when information was uncertain, that is why it prevails right now. I think that it is one of the most important assets I have as a CVC representative. That is why I only try to use it for messages that are really important.
What is at stake today in CVC, what are the priorities with the pandemic?
With the pandemic, I really focused on every possible way I could help the students. That entails students’ well being and academics during the Coronavirus pandemic. During the third semester, it was primarily mental health.
Any future projects you are planning to implement with CVC?
I really spent the summer working on MPR [Menton Policy Review]. It is vaguely connected to the CVC. What we did not have on campus was a centralised platform to communicate information. The optimal way to communicate with the student body is the bulletin, you centralise all information. The leitmotiv of MPR: Concise, Consistent, Centralised. It was the work of nine months of planning and it really has to be perfect. I see it as a constitution, it has to be rigid and there are deadlines. It is sent out every Sunday.
How does MPR work?
We have a team at MPR, we are five people. The work is dense and it is very structured. We compile our information from different poles, we have the associations, the Coronavirus information, and it all has to be centralised at one point. I think that it helps the students and that is, again, the reason why I do it.
It’s small things, the amount of hearts on my messages, that keep me motivated to continue with this.
1 “The reason why there were no elections this year is because so few people applied, I think that it is a result of the Coronavirus crisis. But to my knowledge the students are quite satisfied by the work I do [laughs]”