Tuesday, 21 March 2006

go back to your own damned campus

I was surprised upon arriving this morning to see a crowd of students hanging around the foyer of IFSIC (the IT school here). I then read in my email that they are there to blockade the lecture theatres. This has been going on at the other major campus in town, home of the arts students at Rennes 2, for 4 weeks or more, but until this point hadn't really hit home for the sciency types out this way.

I have a problem with this, but before I vent on it, let me say that I'm fairly sympathetic to their gripe. Now, I'm not really up on the CPE (contrat première embauche - first employment contract), but as I understand it, its a contract that offers very little job security, the goal being to make employers more likely to hire graduates and thus lower the very high unemployment rate in the 18-25 demographic. A noble aim, but a high price to pay for a slight increase in employment, particularly if, as anticipated, the low job security makes the contract useless as a security, for example when renting an apartment. I personally think its not as bad as the recent changes to Australian IR law, but its worth protesting over.

And there's the rub. A student protest is a beautiful thing. Students are young, they should be involved, and they should speak their minds and seen to be speaking their minds. A student strike, on the other hand, is silly, and a classroom blockade is just plain bloody-minded.

The only people hurt by locking students out of classrooms are students. Its just not visible. It doesn't impact the workings of the state like a doctor's strike or a transport workers' strike, so it won't speak to politicians that way, and it doesn't make good TV, so won't get reported, and thus won't offer any propaganda value. It hurts them and their fellow students, and has no value for their cause. If they really want to help get the word out, they'd be more use downtown facing the CRS and tear gas and getting their mugs on TV.

I have a friend over at Rennes 2 who has been locked out of classes for 4 weeks. She's been to the meetings where they vote whether to continue, but its more a rally than a vote, and the odds of ending the blockade are not helped by the vote being a show of hands. This isn't helping her masters, and she's not looking forward to explaining to potential employers that the explanation for lower marks this semester is based in a french industrial dispute. The employers aren't from France; they don't care.

What's particularly deplorable about the blockades downstairs today are that the students aren't even from IFSIC. In the paternal wisdom, a group of blow-ins (I really want to say arts students, but I restraining myself) seem to have decided that they know what is best for the students here, and that is that they not learn. Its forced equality at the cost of both liberty and fraternity.

Update: Pour les francophones interessés, il y un article sur le blog de redaction d'Ouest France qui discute des issus associés.

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