Sciences Po Paris Closes Main Campuses Students Protest University's Middle East Policy

Sciences Po university in Paris closed its main campus due to a student occupation protesting the institution's stance on Middle East policy. The protest, which included a hunger strike, demanded the university cut ties with Israeli universities amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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Safak Costu
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Sciences Po Paris ClosesMain Campusas Students Protest University's Middle East Policy

Sciences Po Paris ClosesMain Campuses Students Protest University's Middle East Policy

On May 3, 2024, Sciences Po, one of France's most prestigious universities, closed its main campus in Paris as a result of an ongoing student occupation protesting the institution's stance on Middle East policy. The closure comes after dozens of pro-Palestinian students began a sit-in overnight, demanding that the university cuttieswith Israeli universities in light of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.

Why this matters: The protests at Sciences Po reflect a broader movement across universities worldwide, highlighting the complexities of addressing geopolitical conflicts within academic institutions. The protests at Sciences Po reflect a broader movement across universities worldwide, highlighting the complexities of addressing geopolitical conflicts within academic institutions. The Israel-Palestine conflict's continued escalation prompts the response of universities like Sciences Po, which may set a precedent for how institutions balance academic freedom with political sensitivities.

The protest escalated when interim director Jean Basseres refused to establish a working group to review Sciences Po's partnerships with Israeli universities. In response, six students commenced a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian victims. The hunger strikers are calling for a public vote by the university's board on the matter of reviewing these partnerships.

Basseres defended his decision, stating, "I clearly refused to set up a working group on our relations with Israeli universities and partner companies." He emphasized that the university already has rules in place to review its partnerships and called on all parties to "show a sense of responsibility." However, student protester Hicham countered, "A first student has started a hunger strike in solidarity with Palestinian victims but even more so to protest against the way Sciences Po is repressing students who want to show their support for Palestine."

The protests at Sciences Po reflect a broader movement across universities in France and the United States, where students are expressing outrage over the Israel-Hamas war and the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza. France, home to Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, finds itself struggling to come to terms with the sensitive nature of the conflict.

This is not the first instance of tension at Sciences Po. In March, Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli accused pro-Palestinian students of screening Jewish students' entry to the school's Émile Boutmy amphitheater. The French Jewish student union also reported that Jewish and Zionist students had been blockaded from the hall.

The student occupation continues, prompting the university to ask staff to work from home. Negotiations between the protesters and the administration have made little progress, according to student protester Jack. The closure of Sciences Po's main campus serves as a poignant illustration of the deep-rooted complexities surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict and its far-reaching impact on academic institutions worldwide.

Key Takeaways

  • Sciences Po's main Paris campus closed due to student occupation protesting Israeli university ties.
  • Protesters demand cutting ties with Israeli universities over Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
  • Interim director refuses to establish working group to review partnerships, sparking hunger strike.
  • Protests reflect broader movement across universities worldwide, highlighting academic freedom vs. political sensitivities.
  • Closure illustrates complexities of addressing geopolitical conflicts within academic institutions.