This letter has been written by the Feminist Collective in response to recent and ongoing events at SciencesPo, and in particular to a statement released by Directrice Marie-Laure Salles on her LinkedIn account.
NOTE: This article was updated on Monday, 22 February 2021, 19:56 CET. See below for a published response by Director Salles.
We, members of the Feminist Collective, request from Directrice Marie-Laure Salles that she clarifies her statement on ongoing events at Sciences Po, particularly the Duhamel affair and #SciencesPorcs.
We understand that Dr. Salles holds profound academic and professional attachment towards Sciences Po, an institution she was until recently a member of.
However, we express our concern in relation to her apparent framing of these events.
We strongly disagree that current attention on the Duhamel affair and #SciencesPorcs is the result of an alleged process of ‘media lynching’.
The outpouring of testimonies from survivors of rape and sexual assault in recent weeks is more than sufficient proof that existing media attention is not manufactured, and that Sciences Po’s deep-rooted issue with rape culture goes further than merely reflecting on the general state of society.
We are specifically concerned with Dr. Salles’s statement that the current scrutiny of rape culture at Sciences Po “should be seen more as shameful for the press than an indictment of a community of professionals and students that have nothing to do with this affair”. Considering the far-reaching nature of ongoing events at Sciences Po, we believe that these words are inappropriate.
On the contrary, professionals and students have everything to do with this affair.
They have made this abundantly clear by calling for the resignation of Directeur Frédéric Mion, and they continue to do so by sharing their testimonies of the numerous, unpunished instances of sexual assault which they have faced at Sciences Po.
We fear that Dr. Salles’s defence of her previous institution, justified as it may be, takes away from the suffering and testimony of victims who have finally gained the courage to speak up.
We recognise that these events are antithetical to Sciences Po’s values and mission, just as they are to IHEID’s.
To the blissfully unaware among us, the #MeToo movement has revealed that rape and sexual assault are systemic issues pervading our society, and academia is no different.
Even more so, it made it painfully evident that even today, justice and support for victims are too often actively suppressed by those in power.
We acknowledge that the portrait painted here is likely far from Dr. Salles’ original intention for her statement, which may very well not have been effectively conveyed through her words.
Nevertheless, as members of the IHEID student community, we are intrinsically concerned about the extent and types of support that we would receive from our own administration, especially from our Directrice, were such a situation to occur at our own institution.
Therefore, we hereby call upon Dr. Salles to clarify her recent statement.
We sincerely hope that, in light of #SciencesPorcs, Dr. Salles is willing to reaffirm our shared commitment to fighting rape, sexual assault and rape culture at IHEID and in academia more broadly.
The Feminist Collective
22 February 2021 – The following email was sent to the Feminist Collective team, in response to their published statement. Director Salles agreed for it to be re-published in full below:
Thank you very much for your email which allows me to clarify here my position.
1. Needless to say that I have always been and remain deeply committed to fighting rape, sexual assault and a gender based violence culture everywhere I am and in particular in the organizations I have been associated with through time.
2. Needless to say that I was profoundly shocked by the case of rape and incest associated with Olivier Duhamel. I find it completely appropriate, to say the least, that Olivier Duhamel is not anymore at the head of the FNSP and one can only regret that it came so late.
3. I was also amongst the first to say in early January when info on the lies of Frédéric Mion came out that he would have no choice but to resign.
4. The reaction (mine) that you are reacting too was to a particular article and some follow-up social media activity. The article is to be found here: https://www.marianne.net/agora/les-signatures-de-marianne/de-laffaire-duhamel-a-la-demission-du-directeur-de-sciences-po-portrait-de-loligarchie
The huge problem I have with this article is that it is building up from the Duhamel affair to completely discredit Sciences Po as a whole, its pedagogical project, the staff in its entirety and even in fact the students as a whole – it is making short-cuts of a kind that I personally cannot associate with serious journalism… It is in some deeply disturbing ways rendering the entire institution “guilty” for not only the behavior of its two leaders and even beyond for the entire ills of the country. So yes I find this article shocking – and I am thinking about my former colleagues, about Sciences Po students who are having to face a double sentence. Not only do they have to deal with the complex situation of an Institution without leadership and direction, in an already taxing period for all, but they are also being attacked as the “cogs of an oligarchic system”… It is as if they were made responsible for the non acceptable behavior of their leaders.
I hope this helps clarify my reaction. This reaction is certainly not a way to deny the systemic dimension of gender based violence – of which I am deeply aware and resolute to fight. But critical thinking is about being able not to fall for intellectual short cuts and to denounce them when they happen. And I do hope that our Institute remains a stronghold of this kind of reflexive posture – where we are able to denounce what needs to be denounced while avoiding as much as possible collateral damage on individuals who happen to be “around”.
Wishing you all the best, I hope that you understand now that my reaction is absolutely not questioning the necessary (and really belated) change of leadership at Sciences Po but a reaction to a particular form of non-journalism that has been violently impacting many individuals who have nothing to do with the unacceptable behavior of their leaders – and who happen to be my former colleagues and students.
– Marie Laure Salles, Director IHEID
The source link and screenshot (with translation) of the statement: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/marielauredjelic_sciencespoforever-activity-6766247333383454720-5gkc
Useful readings about the events at SciencesPo:
- https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/09/world/europe/france-sciences-po-incest.html (English)
- https://www.europe1.fr/societe/alexandre-kouchner-sur-sciences-porcs-notre-societe-exerce-une-vraie-violence-sexuelle-et-sexiste-4025311 (Français)
- https://www.francetvinfo.fr/societe/harcelement-sexuel/affaire-olivier-duhamel/inceste-le-frere-de-camille-kouchner-a-porte-plainte-pour-la-premiere-fois-contre-son-beau-pere-olivier-duhamel_4272365.html (Français)