Monday, February 2, 2009

Ah, bon?

UMP spokesman Frédéric Lefebvre claims that it was not presidential ire but a complaint from CGT head Bernard Thibault that led to the transfer of the prefect of La Manche. We are asked to believe that it was because CGT demonstrators were mistreated that the official's performance was found wanting. À la bonne heure!

Ségo Tries Her Own "Ouverture à gauche"

If Sarko can take Socialists under his wing, Ségo, who has previously expressed her appreciation of Tony Blair and François Bayrou, yesterday turned to her left, even her extreme left, saying that there were "no unbreachable barriers" between her and "what is called in France the extreme left." At the anti-Davos summit in Brazil, she said that representatives of parties of government found it possible to enter into constructive dialogue with altermondialistes, social movements, and even anti-governmental parties of the extreme.

This is merely a continuation of the view that Royal has defended since her defeat, that victory for the left depends on building a broad coalition ranging "from Besancenot to Bayrou." But Besancenot is meanwhile being wooed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a recent defector from the Socialist Party, and has shown no interest in responding to Royal's overtures.

University Strikes

Academics throughout France will be going on strike this week, suspending courses, withholding grades, and taking other actions to protest the Pécresse reforms. I am not so foolhardy as to attempt to evaluate the competing claims as to whether the proposed reforms will help the university to "adapt" to society's changing requirements or, on the contrary, destroy a system that, despite its flaws, is functioning, according to its supporters, tolerably well given the intolerable failure of the government to support it with all necessary means. Here is a manifesto from the protesters. Here is a critique of the reforms by Nobel physicist Albert Fert and other distinguished colleagues. And here is a defense of the reforms by several university presidents.

I would appreciate hearing the points of view of French academics who know the system from inside. Comments can of course be posted anonymously by those who prefer. It is of course one thing to say that the system is clearly in need of reform, which I believe is the case. It is another to say that this reform will do more good than harm. I invite comment on either assertion.