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A Call for Transparency

The following article is a guest contribution, first published on October 17, 2018, in Le Dragon Déchaîné, the campus paper of Sciences Po Paris, Campus of Le Havre. 

An open letter concerning Sciences Po's administration and recent reforms, by Zhenlin Ouyang.
Zhenlin Ouyang is a second-year student at Sciences Po, Campus du Havre. He majors in Politics and Government. He is orginally from China, but lived in Canada before coming to Le Havre. 

I have confidence Sciences Po, as an institution firmly rooted in and representative of democratic principles, will be receptive to criticism from its student body.

Therefore, I write this letter to bring forth two major issues:
1. The lack of transparency about administrative regulations and the reform;
2. The treatment of students who are currently repeating either year of their studies;

I - The lack of transparency

Throughout our time at Sciences Po, the information we have been given has been incredibly inconsistent. In some cases, we have been given no information at all. A key example of this is the contradictory information we were given about the reform.
During the designated information session we had regarding our choice of major, we were told that:

  • our major during the third year abroad would not have to correspond to our major at Sciences Po;
  • that we would be free to pursue an intensive language program regardless of our second year major

However, during this semester, we were told the exact opposite, and the following announcements were made:

  • Our current major has to be pursued during 3A
  • Our current major also determines what universities we can apply to; as some universities do not offer certain majors
  • The intensive language program is not open to anyone anymore.

There are many questions that spring to mind:

  • Where do these inconsistencies come from?
  • Why was this reform not more thoroughly organized before being presented to the student body?
  • Why was there no procedure of consultation with the students regarding this reform?
  • And most importantly: Why were all applicants who would be subject to the reform not informed about it before applying?

Moreover, we were registered for Digital Workshop seminars (on September 14 - 15) without prior notice. However, in my opinion, we should have the ability to choose the seminars we want to sign up for.

II - The Treatment of redoublants

It is hard for students to study at such a demanding university. Enrolling for an extra year is, thereby, doubly difficult. Especially without the proper assistance.
Last summer, when I discovered I had to do an extra year, the administration and I scheduled a Skype conference to discuss my situation. In addition to a half-an-hour delay, I was only allocated five minutes of time to pose my questions.
During that brief meeting, I expressed my concerns and asked two questions:

  • Would I have to re-do the group project? (Before the reform, students were required to implement a group project during the first year)
  • Would I be able to validate the internship I did during the summer of 2017?

I was told that I didn't have to do another team project and that I would be able to validate my internship if all the relevant documents were provided.

Then, to my surprise, when I went to the administration to validate my internship during the last semester, I was given an entirely different response. They first told me that they had to check with their colleagues in Paris and, finally, that I wouldn't be able to validate it. I was confused by their reasoning: I wrote my engagement letter about the promotion of gender equality and my internship was correspondingly conducted at an NGO promoting rights for gender minorities.

I was fed the same story when I asked them about the independent engagement. As the administration has completely ignored my repeated attempts to give my perspective, and as one of my fellow student is in the exact same situation, I would like to ask the following questions on our behalf:

  • If the reform had been set forth with clear instructions, why do we still rely on Paris for clarifications?
  • Why do I have to re-do my internship and the Independent Project? Our administration misled me by giving me contradictory instructions for half of the year (thus giving me less time than other students to find an internship). Why was I obligated to re-do this when the internship I did the year before could have been counted?
  • For students who passed conditionally: why do we still have no information on how to retake classes despite the fact that the first semester is coming to a close?

III: Our Demands

The aforementioned examples are just the tip of the iceberg, but they reflect the lack of transparency within our institution. Beyond these examples, there are several contradictory regulations (such as the absence policy) and our plans are often disturbed by the fluctuating rules passed down from the administration. We were left in the dark as to why the reform was put forth so quickly, and why the regulations were made to be so ambiguous.

When even the administration does not know what they are doing, imagine how we students feel; without sufficient and transparent information, it is difficult for students to incorporate the reform into our personal academic program.

Hence, I present this set of demands on the behalf of students of Sciences Po, who I hope will join me in this call. We hereby demand that:

  • A general assembly be held to explain why regulations about 3A have been reversed without consulting students;
  • A responsive mechanism be implemented by the school to collect the students’ opinions and recommendations on the reform, and that these be taken into account;
  • A unifying standard should be established to prevent any future rapid change of rules and regulations;
  • An ad hoc procedure should be negotiated for les redoublants.

We want a full account of why the school thinks it is acceptable to change rules without going through transparent and inclusive procedures, and we want to see commitments to end such practices.

By Zhenlin Ouyang

Revised for clarity by the editorial team of LDD.
The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the editorial position of Le Dragon Déchaîné and Der Parvenu.