Problems at the Sorbonne

Mar 15th, 2006, 04:18 PM
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Problems at the Sorbonne

Rioting in France,around their universities and in Paris around the Sorbonne is becoming a daily occurance. The violence is increasing as students set fires, damage property and injure police. We enjoyed our time around the Sorbonne in January, but will stay away next month when we are back in France.

Does anyone have any first hand experience with this right now?
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Mar 15th, 2006, 05:09 PM
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several of our posters are there now but there are plenty of updates if you google.
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Mar 15th, 2006, 05:38 PM
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Thanks Mimi. I see the stories daily on the French news. It's just so sad. The students at the university are so fortunate to be there. I have a hard time understanding their methods right now. I'd love a first hand report from anyone from the board when they return.

We will be in Brittney first for a week so hope things will be over by the time we arrive in Paris. We aren't planning on going into Rennes, where there are also problems.
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Mar 15th, 2006, 05:43 PM
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well, the thing is , students can be fired at whim, it gives them no leaverage.
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Mar 15th, 2006, 05:54 PM
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From what I've read, the students are rioting because Mr. DeVillepin has proposed amending the First Employment Contract. For those under 26 years old, employers would now be able fire them within the first two years if they don't do their work satisfactorily or if the employer can no longer afford to pay them. This is a marked change from current policy, which basically requires employers to provide lifetime job security from the first day they hire someone.

There's another twist, too. Upon graduation from such elite schools, students somehow have accumulated "unemployment benefits" and often take almost an entire year off before looking for a job. That would apparently be abolished under the new proposal.

That's what I've read. Doesn't exactly sound like "riot" material, does it?
JeanneB is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 06:19 PM
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My hotel says that that area is closed off to the public anyway.
francophile03 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2006, 10:48 PM
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Demonstrating is NOT rioting...
Yes the students, and their professors are on strike due to the new labour law which allows employers to fire anyone under 26 after 2 years of employment. Jobs for life have not existed here for several years; the students et al are demonstrating against age-specific labour penalties...

The only disruptions are slow or cancelled buses...
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Mar 16th, 2006, 10:35 AM
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Students at the Sorbonne have been in disagreement with the French government on a variety of topics since the 1300's.

As with any society - it is often the students - who are not yet locked into family responsibilites and don;t need to compromose their consciences who lead the way in social change (remember the VietNam war - who forced the government to finally do the right thing - although not after the unnecessary loss of how many thousands of lives?)

And don;t mistake demonstrations for riots. And don;t assume it is the students that are attacking the police. (A friend of mine - a peaceful protester - was arrested in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention for assaulting a police officer's knee with his face - which endangered his later admittance to medical school. He ended up having to go to medical school in Canada - which recognized the arrest as a political ploy - and today is a well-respected physician - still with his heart in the right place I must say.)
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Mar 16th, 2006, 11:24 AM
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NYTraveler -
The students are 'demonstrating' not to force some social change, they are doing this to preserve the status quo of a very privileged class. This is a reactionary demonstration, hardly something progressive or motivated by anything more noble than trying to keep as big a slice of the pie as they feel they are entitled to. It is not 1968 any more.
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Mar 16th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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Obviously it was never 1968 for you GR...
They are demonstrating for equality...
moxie is offline  
Mar 16th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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your typical student at the presigious and very elite Sorbonne is much more equal than the typical frenchman.
I hope they get their 'equality'.
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Mar 16th, 2006, 12:45 PM
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"your typical student at the presigious and very elite Sorbonne is much more equal than the typical frenchman."

Actually, any French high school graduate can enrol to study at the Sorbonne, as is the case for all the Parisian (and French) universities. The only requirement is that they have the baccalauréat. I'd hardly call that "élite"!! There are many élite schools (grandes écoles and écoles d'ingénieur which are quite separate from the French university system) in Paris but the Sorbonne isn't one of them.
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Mar 16th, 2006, 02:24 PM
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Here's an opinion column by William Pfaff in the International Herald Tribune that may add a bit of perspective, though Pfaff perhaps falls short on a point or two:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/03/15/news/edpfaff.php

Students about to set out as workers don't relish the idea of less in the way of job protection than others, just because they're young. More broadly, the new legislation is seen as a wedge that will lead to further changes in the labor law. That's why a large majority of the French population supports these protests, which have been overwhelmingly peaceful. Who is right about causes and cures for unemployment is a whole other matter. Oddly, French employers haven't greeted this economically liberal legislation with much enthusiasm.
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Mar 16th, 2006, 09:06 PM
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The French want to have their cake and eat it, too; the students are simply parroting the opinions of their elders, even as they shoot themselves in the feet with their pointless protests.

The new law would make it possible to fire someone without any special paperwork within the first two years of employment for employees under 26. The current situation provides lifetime job security (almost). Since employers are extremely reluctant to hire young and inexperienced workers when it is so difficult to fire them if things don't go well, the rate of unemployment among people in their early 20s is very high. Allowing employers to fire employees would reduce lifetime job security but would probably create jobs where there are none now.

It's a very complex situation but overall the French want to preserve a comfortable status quo even if it means very high unemployment. More specifically, though, those profiting from the system wish to continue doing so, no matter what the effects for others; whereas those who suffer from the system (the unemployed, for example) want change, but they are a minority (albeit a large one).

Eventually economic realities will force the French to change, no matter how much they demonstrate. The current PM apparently sees this and is pretty much standing firm on the current law, but we shall see.

As for "rioting," a few minor incidents coincidentally recorded by TV cameras do not a riot make. Some people know that breaking a window looks a lot better on TV than holding a sign. And some people with no particular opinions at all but a desire to make trouble tend to work their way into any large demonstration—there are always a few angry young males to make trouble, even though they may not even understand what the demonstration is about.
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Mar 16th, 2006, 09:43 PM
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1. The students are not rioting. Other young people are attaching themselves to the demonstrations and rioting.
2. There are already several court cases about the new law. For example it was found that in a company where several young people were working, they fired the ones who requested legal payment of their overtime and kept the ones who accepted to be exploited illegally.
kerouac is online now  
Mar 17th, 2006, 02:37 AM
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For those who say " No rioting"

Please refer to Sky News in the UK-latest reports today.

They term the situation "rioting." With 200 arrests by police - 40 police injured - people throwing molotov cocktails, rocks , metal barriers etc.
I would use the same term.
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Mar 17th, 2006, 03:02 AM
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According to the article in today's "Washington Post" entitled, "French Students Hit Streets To Protest New Labor Law" about 250,000 students took to the streets across the country.

It continues to say, "the demonstrations were mostly peaceful" but in Paris students on bicycles blocked streets surrounding the Louvre and piggybacked onto the main demostration in order to protest cuts in school sports coaching staffs.

Apparently about 250 youths "threw rocks at police and set fire to a newspaper kiosk between the Bon Marche department store and the hotel Lutetia. Police fired tear gas to break up the group."


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Mar 17th, 2006, 03:48 AM
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Well I don't know what is going on to day, but I certainly know that what we observed last week when we were in Paris was not what I'd call a riot. First of all, it seemed to us that the French police really get a bang of riding around in their vans with all the sirens blaring and tons of police storming out, and sometimes for no reason at all. We were in the park in front of the Bon Marche department store on as Sunday afternoon and saw an example of this. Have no idea why in the world they were doing this.

One day in the middle of last week we ran into one of these student demonstrations. We were near Place de la Concorde and could see the students approaching, peacefully carrying a few signs. There were tons of police vans carrying the police who were all arrayed with full sized plexiglass riot shields and wearing full leg protection etc. The police formed a human barricade at the bridge so that students could not cross it to get to the National Assembly area. The students thwarted them by moving on down to the next bridge, so all the walkie-talkies were going and the sirens were blaring and the troops were running down to where the students had gone. What we saw was more Keystone Cops than anything else.
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Mar 17th, 2006, 04:16 AM
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We actually stumbled across a demonstration in France four years ago, while in Nice.

We did not stand there debating whether the participants were going to demonstrate their proficiency with rock throwing or merely with how loudly they could yell. We simply demonstrated our own view that for a tourist, discretion is always the better part of valour, and left the scene at once. Other than that, we didn't batt an eyelid for the remainder of our sojourn in Nice, nor would we have even had we known about the protest in advance.

It really isn't hard to find out where demonstrations/riots are for the purpose of avoiding them. If you should encounter people marching along the street who are unconcerned about being run down by the local motorists, that is a sure sign that they are not ordinary pedestrians like the rest of us.

Enjoy your trip.
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Mar 17th, 2006, 04:17 AM
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The era of the cell phone and the SMS has completely changed tactics on both sides. The police used to be able to seal off a neighborhood and clear it out. Now, information circulates instantly about which escape routes remain open or methods of diversion that can force the police to run in the wrong direction.

The situation is still developing with another big demonstration planned for Saturday March 18th. This could end in rioting as well, as the "uncontrolled elements" and various anarchists love this sort of event, especially since university and high school students do not have the professional discipline that keeps demonstrations by workers from degenerating.

The prime minister has a chance today to avoid a worsening of the crisis, as he is meeting with the university presidents who are requesting the cancellation of this law (along with 68% of the population) -- if he withdraws the law, things will calm down. If not, there are going to be a few interesting days in the coming weeks.

Tourists should not worry but should watch the (French) news if they are in Paris, Rennes, Poitiers and a few other cities. In Paris, it is good to know that metro stations are automatically closed in troubled areas, so it is unlikely that anyone will pop out of the metro in the middle of a riot.
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