“An undemocratic amendment”, “An attack on freedom of opinion”, “An obstacle to the right of students to express their disagreement with a national policy or the strategy of their university”. Like other union officials, Mélanie Luce, president of the UNEF, is not angry against a senatorial amendment to the research programming bill. Especially since deputy and senators, in search of a compromise, have seen fit to maintain it in the text which will be submitted, Tuesday, November 20, to the vote of the joint committee.
→ READ. The Assembly broadly votes on the research bill
Up to one year in prison and a € 7,500 fine
This provision, which was drafted by Laurent Lafon (Centrist Union), provides that “Entering or remaining within the confines of a higher education establishment without being authorized to do so (…) or having been authorized to do so by the competent authorities, with the aim of disturbing the peace or good order of establishment “, is liable to one year’s imprisonment and a € 7,500 fine. The penalty can be increased to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of € 45,000 if the intrusion is committed in a meeting.
Why such a provision, which already exists for schools? Because, can we read in the explanatory memorandum, “In recent months, several higher education institutions, foremost among them universities, have taken the decision to cancel the holding of debates, which were to be held in their premises, due to pressure and threats aimed at both the themes addressed and the speakers invited ”, can we read in the explanatory memorandum.
We remember, for example, that the University of Bordeaux had, at the end of 2019, preferred to cancel the visit of the philosopher Sylviane Agacinski because student groups defending LGBT interests threatened to disrupt the event.
In the viewfinder, the only people outside the establishment
The objective of this amendment is therefore to “Guarantee freedom of expression and the conditions for adversarial debate within the confines of higher education establishments”. But the president of the UNEF fears that this provision will be exploited, for example, to “Prevent a student coordination from coming to hold a GA in a university” or even for “Severely punish students who disrupt the holding of a board of directors in order to challenge the budgetary strategy of their establishment”.
While the scandalized reactions are rife on social networks, the cabinet of Frédéric Vidal is quick to play down. “The amendment, of a largely symbolic scope, targets only people outside the university – neither its students, nor its staff – who enter the establishment with the aim, for example, of engaging in degradation or damage. make it a battleground, as was seen in 2018 during blockades. “ And to add that the use of public force by university presidents constitutes “Always a last resort after having attempted discussion and negotiation”.
“It is not in any way to prevent students or teacher-researchers from demonstrating within the confines of their establishment”, abounds François Germinet, spokesperson for the Conference of University Presidents (CPU). “It is clearly a question of preventing small groups or organized gangs from taking the university hostage, as was seen in Nantes a few years ago, where Zadists were walking with iron bars in the corridors. and knocked on doors to terrorize staff “, he continues. While specifying that the CPU was not asking for such an amendment.