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Divergences, Revue libertaire internationale en ligne
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The collective of students, professors and staff of the University Paris VIII
The University of Vincennes is opened to all
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For seven weeks, a massive movement has been growing within the French
University system, uniting professors, students and staff in a struggle
against Sarkozy’s new university reform law, the law concerning the
"Liberties and Responsabilities of the Universities" (LRU).

The University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis, with the support
of University administration and personnel, has been on "active
strike", offering alternative classes and workshops open to all. Today
the movement is at a turning point, revealing the depth of the crisis.

In most of the French Universities, with the exception of our own due
to this administrative support, riot police are present on the
campuses and their buses line the surrounding streets. Aided by
private "security" guards, the riot police have entered the campuses
in order to violently break the strikes, occupations and picket lines.
Plainclothes police patrol the corridors. During the protests,
students have been targeted, beaten and arrested, sometimes resulting
in major injuries. Some of the University presidents are therefore
closing the campuses preventatively, while others call upon such
public or private "forces of order", and create a climate of
fear. Despite this situation we are confronted with a near-total media
blackout, as to the movement’s size and its demands (the abrogation of
the law LRU), as well as the violent repression, due to the fact that
the dominant media are friendly with the government.

The law LRU was adopted by Parliament on August 10, 2007, in the
height of the summer vacation, without consulting the university
community. It attacks the foundations of the French University system
as a public institution with a scientific and cultural
mission. Although the system is arguably far from perfect, it has
remained an institution of higher learning that is accessible to all,
without entrance examinations or elevated tuition.

This law imposes the logic of the market onto the Universities, on
many levels. It forces them into competition with one another for
students, financing and prestige, thus turning them into enterprises
and creating a classist hierarchization between campuses. The few
democratic administrative structures that currently exist will
disappear, centralizing power in the hands of the president and a
board that will include representatives from private firms. Professors
and staff will be threatened with job insecurity, with the new
possibility of hiring adjuncts and temporary workers. Even the
academic departments are forced to compete with one another for
students and financing, allowing private interests to help determine
course content, and offering classes in function of the needs of the
current job market. The door is opened to elevated tuition. Students
thus become clients, and the university an enterprise. We believe that
a democratic society needs public universities whose mission it is to
develop the critical spirit of all citizens, and that access to the
university is a fundamental right for all. This is why our movement is
essential for the future of the University, in France and beyond.

We are therefore calling upon you to ask for your solidarity and
support, by inviting you to take part in our movement. At the
University of Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis, a university with a
radical history and situated in the richly diverse North-eastern
suburbs of Paris, we have set up an "open university". We would like
to invite you to come and lead a workshop, consisting in giving a talk
and opening up a debate. Your work has inspired us and we have taken
it seriously ; we therefore invite you to come and put it into practice
with us. Together we can discuss issues relating to the University
even beyond the abrogation of the LRU. Your particpation would be a
great help to our movement, which is in need of exterior support.

We thank you very much, and greatly hope to receive your positive
response.

Sincerely,

The collective of students, professors and staff of the University
Paris VIII Vincennes-Saint Denis




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