no lessons for two weeks following a blockage
It has been three weeks since the National School of Architecture of Normandy (Ensan) has not given lessons to its students. Three weeks that students, teachers and administrative staff are making claims to politicians to alert to a situation that has become worrying. The start of the second semester, which was to take place on January 30, 2023, has been postponed. The blocking of the teachings, “but not from school“, was voted at the beginning of February for two renewable weeks. The reason? The teams and students of Ensan believe that they are sorely lacking in financial and human resources. A protest movement, bringing together staff, teachers and students, has thus formed, in order to alert the State to the situation”catastrophic of the establishment which is no longer able to fulfill some of its training and research missions“. They thus sent two letters to the Ministry of Culture to ask for better working and study conditions, and to point out the many dysfunctions in the establishment.
“Precarious jobs, underpaid teachers and derisory financial means”
For 13 months, the school has been operating without a manager and is regularly found to be understaffed. Administrative agents who go on maternity leave or on sick leave are not replaced, thus implying the impossibility of ensuring educational registrations and the assignment of teaching rooms. “Some staff members burned out because they held several positions at the same time“, says Marina Hardy, a third-year undergraduate student elected to the school’s board of directors. “Indirectly, students suffer. Sometimes a class of 100 students does not have a room available at the last minute. We have reached a breaking point with the postponement of the start of the school year.”
In the letters addressed to the ministry, which Batiactu was able to consult, the movement calls for an increase, from “significantly“, the means allocated to the Rouen school, which should experience a budget deficit of 680,000 euros in 2023. They also denounce the existence of “precarious jobs, underpaid teachers and derisory financial means“.”Our funding must be aligned with that of institutions that offer comparable training and that train the people with whom they work. architects of tomorrow will be sometimes in collaboration, sometimes in competition (mainly engineering schools) and this with an obvious concern for fairness.”
The sub-directorate for education and research in architecture of the Ministry of Culture was quick to react. On January 30, 2023, she offered to hire a half-full-time equivalent on a fixed-term contract, “to end the school year“. The administration also said there would be “in the long term, a rebalancing of allocations between the Ensa“. A Judged Answer”far from up to the challenge“for the staff.
Objective ? Promote the movement locally and nationally
Twenty days after our first article describing the crisis that the Ensan is going throughmovement “fight” has been structured. Actions have been carried out, inside and outside the walls of the school. “Even if there was no class, we had no time to breathe“, relates Marie Gaimard, teacher of architectural history at Ensan. Since the end of January, more than five general assemblies have taken place, bringing together up to 200 people. “Students, teachers and administrative staff were invited to take part in the discussions. Our desire is to bring together as many people as possible, to create a community and to publicize the initiative nationally but also locally.“, continues the teacher.
Classes were given in the city center of Rouen, including sketching lessons in the busy rue du gros-horloge, and the erection of a mud-brick wall in one of the town squares. “We also put up banners around the city, engaged in conversations with passers-by and, of course, contacted local elected officials. Several appointments have been made with the metropolis, the regional council and deputies“, says the teacher. “Work with local elected officials is necessary, it is about the reputation of the school, the representation of architecture and culture on the territory, but also of the higher education offered in the region.”
Towards a national movement?
If a hundred students actively engage, others say to themselves “worried” for the validation of their semester. “We reassured them by promising them that there would be no sanctions, in particular against scholarship holders, since a motion was voted to allow the non-pedagogical and administrative penalization of the weeks of blocking“, assures Marina Hardy. “Many told us that they supported us but that they would like to continue going to class. But we too would like to study. It is important to act before it is too late.“The management, for its part, addressed a word to the representatives of the mobilization, explaining that it did not prevent speaking out and making demands but that it encouraged the students to return to school.
In the meantime, those leading the rally hope the government will look into their plight. “The Ministry of Culture has offered to meet us on March 24, 2023, so there is some hope“, announces Marie Gaimard. This progress does not prevent the holding of a next general meeting on February 27th.
“This crisis exceeds that of Ensan. This is a national situation since we are calling for raising the level of human and financial resource allocations in the least well-endowed schools in France.“, assures Marie Gaimard, who would like”nationalize the debate“. A joint Ensa petition, launched by students, has already collected more than 700 signatures. “Support from several schools, where the situation is hardly enviable either, has reached us, which suggests an imminent national mobilization“, concludes Marina Hardy.