Why is this debatable
“After Science Po Lille, Sciences Police? “. The title of an article that appeared last week in chain duck makes you smile. And they react: on Twitter, hundreds of Internet users convey the information that the police “ordered” a dissertation on emerging social movements from students of the Institute of Political Studies (IOP) in Lille.
“Some students still have values and refuse to work hand in hand with the police,” thunders the Lille student union SUD Solidaires. on twitter. A Mediacités activist who calls herself Camille, a student at Sciences Po Lille, agrees: “This ‘memory’ is not trivial: it seems that students are being asked to find tools to suppress social movements. “For her, the police will seek to ‘use the aura of students to get close to the people who are demonstrating, and in this way collect a huge amount of information.’
Et oui monsieur Mathiot, certain-e-s étudiant-e-s ont encore des valeurs et refusent de travailler main dans la main avec la police. Il faudra vous y habituer ! https://t.co/jrqHZ4SB6o
— Solidaires étudiant·e·s Lille (@SolEtuLille) January 5, 2022
What really happened? Last September, 21 students in the Analysis of Modern Societies section of Science Po Lille were busy looking for a topic for a dissertation. Cédric Passard, political science lecturer and course leader, sends them an email proposing research work “that can be done with institutional support that facilitates access to sources.” Topic ? “An anticipation, understanding and expectation of public protest, which is expressed outside of traditional or institutional schemes and networks. From yellow vests to health go through the movement Black Lives Matter “. Only that.
The sponsor is not mentioned, but the address belonging to the state (.gouv.fr) is clearly indicated in the message seen by Mediacités. It is actually owned by the Department of Public Safety (DDSP) in the North, which coordinates the second largest police intervention area in France after Paris. In the same message, Cédric Passard points out that the research work can be carried out in the form of an “expert report, since this is, in short, a” order “”. That’s too much for one of his students, also a SUD Solidaires activist, who publicly denounces on Twitter a disguised police investigation.
“Perhaps I should have contextualized the topic more,” admits a professor today, for whom the dissertation had nothing to do with a police investigation, since it would have been conducted by a teacher-researcher. “The police have many other means of investigation. No one expected a fourth-year student to become an informer. If this is what we understand from my proposal, then it is because I missed something during the course on research methodology! “He regrets.
Independence of the study in question
If the subject proposed by the DDSP seems too ambitious for a fourth-year student, it in any case raises a legitimate question about the independence of research in the social sciences. For researchers, including students, ethnographic research at the heart of the institution provides access to unpublished information, while remaining free from its research method.
“This does not preclude a critical approach,” argues Cedric Passard, referring to the work of sociologists such as Fabien Jobard, whose work on police error or “institutional racism” among policemen and gendarmes was based on observations as close as possible to the police. . “I think he sincerely thought that this memoir could be good research,” says Camille, an activist for SUD Solidaires, who remains “embarrassed” at the thought that a student could provide useful information to the police.
According to the Education Manager of the Analysis of Modern Societies section, “We never know how the results of our research will be used, whether in the police station or in the company. Personally, I find it good if the police are receptive to sociological work. Maybe they can make a small contribution to changing the police? “, he hopes. In the 2021-2022 academic year, it was a failure for DDSP du Nord: not a single student from Sciences Po Lille supported his proposal.