By JADE QUINN-MCDONALD.
Since last month, I’d been mulling over ideas about what to do for my parcours civique this summer. Over 100 hours, full-time, four to six weeks long. I’d had no inkling of a theme. It just so happens that a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege to vote in my first election – regional representatives for the west coast of Canada. And what a thrill it was. Mailing in my ballot felt gratifying and I look forward to voting in future elections. However, after jumping through hoops to register to vote, receive and complete my voting package, I found myself wondering how many 18-year-old kids would go through the same. As students of Sciences Politiques I would like to think that we strive to stay well-informed and motivated and involved in politics, but how engaged are our friends studying microbiology, marketing and music theory? I would like to find out. That is what gave me the idea to seek out opportunities to promote youth involvement in politics. I don’t know in what shape or form this will come, still, I would like to start by informing you, dear reader, about the 2020 Sciences Po elections.
In 2016, Sciences Po adopted a new governance structure and renewed its governing bodies. In 2020, all the electoral colleges, except the adjunct faculty, were invited to vote for their representatives. Sciences Po’s statutes are unique in France in that they combine principles of public and private law, giving the institution the freedom to develop an innovative educational model within the French public higher education system. The reform of January 2016 maintains this structure while making it more transparent.
We, as students of the undergraduate college, were able to vote for the representatives of the Student Life and Education Committee, or Conseil de la Vie Étudiante et de la Formation (CVEF) which has a decision-making role with regard to student life matters and advises on educational matters. Three groups represented by Sciences Po Menton students were in the running:
- NOVA represented by Alexandre Kuhn
- Solidarité Étudiant-e-s represented by Maria Garriga Zamora
- UNEF represented by Abhinav Shetty.
In a message for first-year students, Abhinav Shetty said: “[Elections] help build representation for Menton/International students with these unions, and thus with the governing bodies of Sciences Po.” Abhinav Shetty continues with examples of actions, including: “campaigns for reduction of tuition fees, compensation for expensive flights during the first wave of the pandemic […] financial support if [students] stay in France over summer for [their] parcours civique,” etc. He concluded with: “Any individual problems you may face with communication with the administration student unions can ensure you get a response on time and [don’t] get bamboozled by the admin as usual.” Regrettably, after campaigning and encouraging student voters to participate, UNEF has not been selected by the Council.
The NOVA candidate will be our student representative. In a recent update by UNEF titled “Denial of Democracy at the CVEF”, we read that the candidate was elected against the popular vote that put UNEF in first. The post exposes Science Po faculty, accusing council members of violating the verdict of the ballot box: “The Council decided to elect the NOVA candidate, against the candidate from the UNEF-SPES list […]. Beyond the contempt shown for student democracy, this decision will have major implications for the entire Sciences Po community.” Although it is not mandatory for the council to select a popularly elected representative, it is easy to see how this choice counters democratic principles; it has not happened since the 1960s. UNEF’s chagrin over their inability to deliver on their agenda is evident: “Your choice has not been respected. We can legitimately doubt the capacity of the new President to represent the students in these bodies. […] We are therefore deprived of the means to implement the programme for which you elected us.” In light of the situation, the party has decided to boycott the next CVEF.
The choice of student representatives directly impacts us. This election was a rare opportunity in which a relatively small pool of voters had an influence. I hope these results do not defeat those of you who voted, but motivate you to continue to be involved in the (expectedly) democratic process of election. Politics move the world. It is our privilege to be part of an institution that values its students’ opinions, and our obligation to speak up when we are misrepresented. As Rousseau says:
The very right to vote imposes on me the duty to instruct myself in public affairs, however little influence my voice may have in them.Rousseau