Problems at the Sorbonne

Mar 17th, 2006, 03:01 PM
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An addendum: The Financial Times of London sent a reporter, or reporters, to the disadvantaged Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, which saw some of the worst social unrest last autumn. What was found among youth there, whom the new legislation is intended to help with greater access to jobs, was nearly universal opposition to it. Among the sentiments expressed was that it would merely provide a cover for ethnic discrimination in firing and (true when I reflect on it) that it would be impossible to find lodging as a renter with a work contract that provided nothing in the way of assurance of employment in the short term, or at best beyond two years out. For sure, this wasn't a scientific study, and the youth of Clichy-sous-Bois could be wrong, but this casts some doubt on the hypothesis of privileged university students versus desperate, disadvantaged young people.
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 04:19 PM
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Oh, come ON, people, where's your sense of adventure? Go hang out in the 5th and watch a demonstration or two...perhaps even participate. Get a whiff of a bit of tear gas. This is history in the making, and you'd miss it? Besides, it'll be FUN. Maybe a LITTLE risky, but fun!

Afraid of getting hurt? Remember, this is FRANCE, where the gendarmes and the CRS didn't even kill anyone in last year's far more serious and destructive rioting. (That never would have happened in the US...there would have been at least a dozen deaths.). Think they're going to fire into the crowds a la Kent State 1970? Nope, never happen.

And if you happen to get yourself arrested, so what? You can plead that you're an innocent tourist with questionable judgement...what judge will throw the book at you?

C'mon, folks, show some courage, some spunk and some thirst for adventure!
JeffreyJ is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 05:33 PM
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I read something interesting about this.
It is apparently common for the graduates of these fine schools to not even look for a job for a year after graduating. They accrue unemployment benefits while studying, so the taxpayers take a further hit by paying benefits to these student 'workers' who haven't even had a job. A subsidized, year long vacation.
What a racket.
GalavantingReprobate is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 05:53 PM
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just returned from rue des ecoles , and although the streets were totally blocked durng most of our trip (in the adjoining sorbonne/pantheon area), we must have gotten up a lot earlier and gone to bed a lot later than the rioters.

the police were out all day in full force and anti-riot gear.. tons of vans.. horses.. you name it..

but we can't believe we saw NONE of it. we did see a group of students going up a street that we decided not to go on.. but we only realized there was a big problem tuesday night when a certain bus just never came and we taxied quickly to our restaurant reservation.

we would watch the news and wonder what time all this happened and how long it lasted.

it seems pretty serious though.
this weekend they are expecting more thousands from around the country.
lincasanova is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 10:23 PM
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It can look serious if you come from a place where demonstrations are not common, but it's pretty routine for Paris. The police presence is nothing special; they are always out in force for demonstrations, depending mostly on the number of demonstrators expected.

There's another side to this: the Prime Minister introduced the law and wants to run for president in the next election … and so does the Interior Minister (which is the ministry that controls the police). So the latter has a special interest in making it look like protests are huge and unruly, although he has to take care to avoid any actual violence (which might reflect badly on him).

Anyway, it will all be water under the bridge soon enough. I admit that I get tired of French people demonstrating for every little thing; if they'd just elect people who felt as they do to begin with this wouldn't happen. But they like to elect people based on their family backgrounds and schooling, not based on their policies—that gives the French an excuse to man the barricades when they want things changed. I'm pretty sure it's all deliberate, just so that people can go to a demonstration now and then and get the day off from school or work.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 10:16 AM
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"But they like to elect people based on their family backgrounds and schooling, not based on their policies."

kerouac is online now  
Mar 18th, 2006, 10:31 AM
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I don't understand why so many people are so fascinated by this on this board, and yet post or comment about protests, riots, etc., in virtually any other place.

I do live in a city where there are lots of protests (Wash DC), although most of them are pretty mild, but even here, it isn't that unusual to have some arrests and troubles when they are protesting outside the World Bank, or on WTO issues or things like that. I've also been in places that had them in the US back in the Vietnam War era when there was teargas and other things (I did go to Ohio State where they burned the ROTC building down, but I was not involved), and curfews. I've been in Paris at least a couple times when they've had protests (the Jose Bove thing was one), and it's true that they always have the police out and often block streets.

I just don't get why people on this board are so obsessed with protests in Paris and France.

Maybe I should go take down my Sorbonne diplome which I have framed and hanging on my wall to impress people ha ha. It does impress those if you can't read French and don't realize it's just for summer school, but they like to hand out diplomes a lot at that school.

They do strike and protest a lot in France, and sometimes it does get tiring, and doesn't always seem to accomplish anything. They still have some unusual hiring and firing practices in France, in my terms, though and things that in the US would be discriminatory. I don't think you could pass a law discriminating against a particular age group's benefits like that in the US. If you want to say people can be let go easier on some short time frame of hiring, it seems it should apply to anyone at that time frame, not just to people of a certain age. Of course, in the US, most places don't have any protections at all (unless they are in a union), and anyone could be fired for any reason if the boss didn't want to keep them.

I'm all for workers' rights, but I think some of this is not reasonable -- like one young woman they quoted in an article I just read yesterday on this issue, who was a French student, and said something like, this way we would have to do whatever the boss wanted us to do or we'd get fired. uh, yeah, isn't that what most people are supposed to do, what their boss wants.
Christina is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 10:33 AM
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We just returned from Paris last night and stayed at the Hotel St. Jacques in the Latin Quarter. Daily, we saw police in riot gear on the street corners. Our last night, we saw a crowd of students (probably 50-100?) marching down the street from the Parthenon, chanting in French. At NO time did we ever feel in danger and we would definitely stay in the hotel again.
Tim_and_Liz is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 10:33 AM
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To Galavanting

In France people under 25 do not get any social benefit if they have never held a job.
Being a student does not accrue unemployment benefits.
So if the graduates of those "fine schools" want to take a year before looking for a job, it's at their expense and it's not a burden on the tax payers. Rather on their family, I suppose !
The CPE (contrat de première embauche i.e. 1st job contract) isn't really meant for them as they should not have trouble finding a permanent job (assuming jobs are permanent nowadays, which is another story). It's meant for the young people who are not qualified and have no other choice.

PS. I am French
Pvoyageuse is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 10:55 AM
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Cristina, personally what called my attention was the enormous amount of burnt cars, and buildings during the protests in Paris early this yer. How many cars? and buidings?...I do not if I read correctly but I think :
10.000 cars,if this is true I find it extraordinary. That the rioters can destroy property just like that....frankly in as much as I love Paris it is like a warning signal to avoid Paris in our next trip.
Regarding this one you are right it does not seem so much out of hand, I would not comment regarding this one. One of many in the world, I agree.
Graziella5b is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 11:08 AM
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Pvoyage -
this is what I read, posted over at NRO.
From a reader:
Dear Mr. Goldberg,
I enjoyed your column on the French attitude toward work with gritted teeth. I have observed the behavior up close myself.
I spent a year living in France as a post-doc in engineering at a Grande Ecole, in the early nineties. One of my office mates was in the final year of his doctoral studies in acoustics, and not many graduates of the program (a top
one) were gainfully employed. Recalling the scramble that was the final year
of my own studies -- the birth of my son, finshing collecting and analyzing
data, finishing and defending the dissertation, and LOOKING FOR EMPLOYMENT, I asked my office mate how his job search was going.
Oh, uh...., he replied, somewhat puzzled, I'm not looking. I asked him to
repeat himself, not certain I'd heard correctly. Yes, he continued, I'll be
taking the follwing year off. How are you going to live, I asked, not yet
appreciating the all-encompassing beneficence of the French system. Oh, I have a year of unemployment benefits accumulated, so I probably won't even think about looking for a job until, oh, maybe nine months after I finish. Everybody does it....
I didn't hear much more. Hearing a "top student" consider, without a hint of shame, that unemployment benefits are essentially a year's paid vacation made
my head spin. de Villepin's new law required that kids would have to prove
themselves *after* they walk in the door of their employer.... And they
responded by rioting. I mean, wouldn't you? It would have been the first crack
in the dam! Who knows -- would our paid year off then be in danger?
I should of course make some disclaimers: not everyone I met in France has this sort of attitude. There are many hard-working people there, etc., etc. But the students who went through the Grandes Ecoles (the tip-top, elite track -- so much for egalite) seemed to be the ones most likely to think like my office-mate.
There are many other anecdotes I could recount, but I can hear my boss in the hall ...
Take care!

Maybe this guy had benefits built from working before/during school, I don't know. But to use these benefits to layabout for year, just because 'he can' is the problem.
In the US, this attitude is not unheard of, but there is a stigma attached to it, and it would never even occur to most of us to use our benefits this way.
PS - I am not french.
GalavantingReprobate is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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Maybe it's a Rube Goldberg story?

I've never heard of people being able to accumulate unemployment benefits over the years.

What you get if you have worked a given number of months during the year is a percentage of your previous salary. And you get it for a given amount of time - not necessarily a year.
This is why the story of the post-graduate sounds rather strange.

Villepin's CPE only apply to people under 25 who have never held a job and are not entitled to any unemployment benefit.

Pvoyageuse is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 12:21 PM
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>...that gives the French an excuse to man the barricades when they want things changed. I'm pretty sure it's all deliberate,... <

I think you are correct.

The French do have a tendency to create very rational, elaborate and elegant social and legal systems, and then do their best to subvert them.

ira is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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And while it may be only a very small number of people doing the actual car burnings and other destruction, I saw with my own eyes on TV a crowd of easily 1000 all cheering wildly as one car went up in flames. Those others may not have lit the match, but they were sure enjoying the "carnage".
Mar 18th, 2006, 01:34 PM
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About a quarter of a million people demonstrated against their free rides today, and only about 150 tried to cause any trouble.

The French have an unshakable sense of entitlement. They don't understand that the money they take from the government without any hint of conscience is money that came from their own wallets. They are their own worst enemies, and if they don't wise up, they're going to learn the hard way as the rest of the world passes them by.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 01:41 PM
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The French look weak and afraid to compete based on merit and hard work. Why should a company have to support an unproductive worker for life? What prevents a clever fella from getting hired based on some fancy degree and then turning into a lazy slug who just wants to coast until vacation time?
NorthShore is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 01:49 PM
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Throughout this string, the most sensible comment and pertinent comment was this:

"We did not stand there debating whether the participants were going to demonstrate their proficiency with rock throwing ... We simply demonstrated our own view that for a tourist, discretion is always the better part of valour, and left the scene at once.''

As for the rest, why not leave it to the French to sort out?
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 02:02 PM
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Agree with Dave in Paris. The US has plenty of problems of their own to deal with.
opaldog is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 02:06 PM
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Yes, and as we all know the French would never sit and discuss OUR politics!
Mar 18th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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I am leaving for Paris Wednesday and staying at the College de France on Rue Thenard one block from the Sorbonne. I have no intension of changing my plans or even my hotel at this time as long as I can sleep at night, come and go without major inconveniences and enjoy all that Paris has to offer. After today's demonstrations, I think Saturday may be the worst day of demonstrations if it is still going on a week from today.

I appreciate the info from the poster who stayed at the St. Jacques. I stayed there in November and that is around the corner from where I am staying this week!! I will try to report back after my return with any updates on the unrest as well as comments on my trip in general!
wtggirl is offline  
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