the controversial letter from the College of Clermont Auvergne

A student union opposes a communication letter from the University of Clermont Auvergne: it suggests using inclusive writing and favoring neutral formulas. Voting will be this Friday, June 24th.

The Board of Directors of Clermont Auvergne University is convened to vote this Friday, June 24, on the adoption of an inclusive communication letter. In the ranks of students, this letter is not unanimous. The UNI student union, which has between 30 and 40 members between Clermont-Ferrand and the other campuses, rejects this letter as a whole. In a press release, these students write: “This clear objective of making the masculine and the feminine disappear is definitive proof of the deconstructive will of the Wokist ideology. […] Students should not have to suffer the whims of a few activists who only seek to convey their anti-French ideology by deviating from our language that would weigh more heavily on the understanding and learning of foreign students and students with dyslexia.”

Clément Lepiller, a 3rd year student of Economic and Social Administration and co-responsible for the UNI student association, is one of the people who drafted the statement. “We are against the imposition of inclusive writing in all internal documents of the university, because, although the principle of the struggle for equality between men and women seems clear and noble, we are not convinced that this can move things forward. , on the contrary. In the elements that are explained and in the letter, we have the impression that it is not addressed to the student community as a whole, but to the communities. We have the impression that inclusive writing exists to divide and remove the principle of masculine and feminine, at the same time that it addresses only men or only women and no longer together.

This letter is the result of work that lasted about a year, within the scope of the establishment’s plan for gender equality, explains UCA President Mathias Bernard: “It is the result of collective work, involving students, teachers and administrative staff… The objective is to promote equal access for women and men, both in university courses and in professions within the university itself or outside it. In this work on gender equality issues, the question of representations that influence behavior is posed. Anything that refers to gender stereotypes conveyed by different types of representations is part of the fields of action that the university has clearly identified.”

This text is above all the official communication of the UCA, as indicated by the President: “This inclusive or genderless communication letter aims above all to avoid, in university communication, the use of forms that reinforce gender stereotypes, whether in written or visual communication.” According to him, the purpose of this letter is to “promote modes of communication that introduce as little bias as possible linked to male or female persons. One part concerns the modalities of writing with inclusive writing”. And this is where, for UNI, the shoe pinches: “The most disturbing in our opinion is the use of the midpoint and the slash. Is very difficult. It also runs counter to the advice given by the immortals of the French Academy in an open letter a few years ago. This is something very problematic and that can penalize foreign students, students with dyslexia or other cognitive disabilities”, explains Clement Lepiller.

However, this letter imposes nothing, according to Mathias Bernard: “It’s a toolbox, we’re not in the order of the decree or the circular. It’s not a prescriptive text, it’s a text that makes recommendations to university employees to use the most appropriate means of communication that it can do.” The letter notably recommends the use of words that “allow to have a comprehensive totality”. For example, use “the faculty” instead of “the faculty”, which is a more neutral form. A 2nd part of the letter that mainly targets the visual media distributed by the university. This is to avoid “representations that can feed stereotypes, gender: presenting young female students as passive, pensive or dreamy, while boys are more active”, says Mathias Bernardo. he calls to be “vigilant and well thought out”. It adds : “We are sometimes in unconscious mechanisms, a kind of collective unconscious, which means that, even without wanting to, we can reproduce this.”

Visual communication is also in UNI’s sights: “It’s controlling the place of women and men in all the university’s internal images. It is a matter, for example, of controlling the colors of clothes, the posture and then the size of people. Even if it starts with a good intention, we believe that it is absolutely unequal to treat people differently, depending on whether they are men or women”. indignant Clément Lepiller. “We fully assume” answers Mathias Bernard. “This is a proposal from the university that is based on research work in social psychology and that is carried out within our establishment. This is not a militant approach. We are in an approach that is based on scientifically validated elements and that is part of social responsibility, and an approach of integration on the part of the establishment.”

For Mathias Bernard, this opposition is marginal: “We have the impression that the whole university is a scold that would be against this submission to the dictates of wokism. We’re not there yet. It is only the UNI that makes the choice of an expected political instrumentation on this type of subject. I think there is a post-election context that can explain the particular sensitivity of certain organizations on these issues.” However, this letter is not a unique case, according to him: “The equivalent of this letter has already been adopted by almost most universities. Unfortunately, Clermont is not particularly pioneering or avant-garde on the subject. Universities in Lyon, Grenoble, for example, have already adopted similar charters, sometimes as early as 2017.”

But then, why put this letter to a vote? Mathias Bernard responds: “In fact, I wanted him to be included on a board of directors. I’m less afraid of political opposition, which is marginal, than a form of passivity, of “Is it really essential?”, a kind of skepticism. Many of them think that the masculine character of the French language does not necessarily have an impact on issues of professional equality or gender equality in studies. From the moment you have a linguistic system on the one hand, and then a visual communication on the other hand, which systematically enhances the masculine, which leads to behavior, without the actors necessarily being aware of it. There is no doubt for UNI to adopt this text: “We urge you to vote against! “, says Clement Lepiller.

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